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Research Summary

Does Inflammation Influence Alcohol’s Cardiovascular Effects?

Light-to-moderate alcohol use can reduce cardiovascular mortality in some populations. To investigate whether this protective effect is influenced by inflammation, researchers assessed alcohol use and inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein and interleukin-6) in 2487 adults, aged 70–79 years, without heart disease at study entry. Over a mean 5.6 years of follow-up, 397 deaths and 383 cardiac events (myocardial infarction, angina, or heart failure) occurred.

  • In adjusted analyses, the risks of all-cause mortality and incident cardiac events were lower in light-to-moderate drinkers* than in never or occasional drinkers** (hazard ratios [HRs] 0.7 for all-cause mortality and 0.7 for cardiac events).
  • Risks were also reduced in light-to-moderate drinking men with above-median, but not lower, levels of interleukin-6 (HRs 0.5 for all-cause mortality and 0.5 for cardiac events).
  • C-reactive protein levels did not affect the association between drinking and risk among men.
  • The effect of inflammatory markers was not assessed in women because too few women had an outcome event.


This interesting research is consistent with prior studies that show reduced all-cause mortality and cardiac events in adults who drink light-to-moderate amounts. Although the study found no relationship between C-reactive protein levels, alcohol use, and outcomes, it did find a lower risk in light-to-moderate drinking men with high (but not low) interleukin-6 levels. To better understand the interaction of inflammation, alcohol, and cardiovascular health, further research on this topic should include different populations, such as people with chronic inflammatory conditions, women, and racial minorities.

Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc
*Drank 1–7 standard drinks per week
**Drank never or <1 drink per week


Maraldi C, Volpato S, Kritchevsky SB, et al. Impact of inflammation on the relationship among alcohol consumption, mortality, and cardiac events: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(14):1490–1497.