Drinking less alcohol benefits heart health

Patients with the rs1229984 gene variant tended to drink less and had healthier hearts.

Cutting alcohol benefits the heart
Cutting alcohol benefits the heart

HealthDay News -- Reducing alcohol intake -- even for light-to-moderate drinkers -- may decrease cardiovascular problems, according to researchers.

“While the harmful effects of alcohol on conditions such as liver cirrhosis, injuries, and cancers of the liver, colorectum, breast, and upper aerodigestive tract have been firmly established, uncertainty remains concerning the potential protective effects of light to moderate alcohol consumption on risk of coronary heart disease and stroke,”  Michael V. Holmes, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Penn., and colleagues reported in a study published in BMJ.

The researchers analyzed drinking habits and heart health in 260,000 patients. They found that carriers of the rs1229984 variant in the alcohol dehydrogenase 1B gene (ADH1B) (tied to lower levels of drinking) generally had healthier hearts. The gene affects how a person's body breaks down alcohol, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and facial flushing.

Having the rs1229984 variant has been shown to lead to lower alcohol consumption over the long term, the study authors explained. On average, people with the gene had lower blood pressure, lower BMI, and a 10% lower risk of heart disease.

“These findings suggest that reduction of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, is beneficial for cardiovascular health,” concluded the researchers.

References

  1. Holmes M et al. BMJ. 2014; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4164
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