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Research Summary

Does Alcohol Consumption Decrease the Risk of Coronary Artery Calcification?

Decreased coronary atherosclerosis is one possible mechanism to explain the lower rates of coronary artery disease (CAD) outcomes observed in light-to-moderate drinkers. To study this further, researchers measured coronary artery calcification (using electron beam computed tomography) and alcohol consumption in 1795 adults (aged 55 and older) without known CAD.

In analyses controlling for various cardiovascular risk factors, the odds of extensive coronary calcification (calcium score of >=400, a score associated with proven CAD) were significantly lower in people who consumed the following:

  • <1 drink per day (odds ratio [OR] 0.5) or 1–2 drinks per day (OR 0.4) compared with those who did not drink
  • <1 drink of wine per day (OR 0.7) or 1–2 drinks of wine per day (OR 0.5) compared with those who did not drink wine
  • <1 drink of liquor per day (OR 0.6) compared with those who did not drink liquor

Results did not differ between men and women.

Comments:

According to this study, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption decreases odds of extensive coronary calcification in a population of asymptomatic adults. This finding suggests a lower burden of coronary atherosclerosis in light-to-moderate drinkers and is consistent with current public health recommendations on lower-risk drinking. The influence of longitudinal changes in drinking patterns and of heavy drinking on coronary calcification was not ascertained.

Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc

Reference:

Vliegenthart R, Oei HS, van den Elzen APM, et al. Alcohol consumption and coronary calcification in a general population. Arch Int Med. 2004;164(21):2355–2360.


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