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Research Summary

Greater Alcohol Intake Increases the Risk for Hypertension, but Perhaps Not for Consumers of Red Wine

This prospective study among university graduates in Spain sought to assess whether an association exists between alcohol consumption (including beverage preference), days of consumption per week, and the risk of hypertension. Investigators followed 9963 men and women who did not have hypertension at baseline. Self-reported and validated data on diet and hypertension diagnoses were collected during a median (interquartile range) follow-up period of 4.2 (2.5–6.1) years. Five hundred fifty-four incident cases of hypertension were identified over a total of 43,562 person-years.


  • The hazard ratio (HR) for hypertension was 1.28 among subjects who consumed alcohol ≥5 days per week compared with abstainers (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.97–1.7). Of these, those averaging ≥1 drink per day* had an HR of 1.45 compared with abstainers (95% CI, 1.06–2.00).
  • The increased risk for hypertension was seen in beer or spirits drinkers only. Those consuming >0.5 drinks of beer or spirits per day (average consumption in this category, 16 g per day) was 1.53 compared with abstainers (95% CI, 1.18–1.99). In contrast, there was a nonsignificant inverse association between red wine intake and the risk of hypertension.
*Standard drink = 13.7 g of alcohol in this study.


Previous studies have shown that increasing alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk for hypertension. In this study of a Mediterranean population, only consumption of beer or spirits, not wine, increased this risk. However, the authors did not adjust for baseline blood pressure (the strongest factor in predicting future hypertension), nor can a "threshold" level of drinking associated with increased hypertension risk be ascertained from the data presented. Although few of the findings were statistically significant, the results are consistent with other research: higher levels of alcohol intake increase blood pressure, but such an increase may not be present for consumers of red wine. R. Curtis Ellison, MD


Núñez-Córdoba JM, Martínez-González MA, Bes-Rastrollo M, et al. Alcohol consumption and the incidence of hypertension in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN study. Rev Esp Cardiol. 2009;62(6):633–641.