Moderate consumption of alcohol can reduce risk of heart failure

It is well known that moderate consumption of alcohol can protect against certain heart diseases. A US study, published in the “European Heart Journal”, now demonstrates that this is also true for heart failure. According to the results, moderate drinking reduces the risk in men by about 20 per cent and in women by about 16 per cent.

Researchers at Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (Massachusetts) analysed data from 14,629 people aged between 45 and 64 who had participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study which began between 1987 and 1989. The subjects were followed for up to 25 years. They reported on their alcohol consumption at the beginning of the study and at the subsequent visits every three years.

During the study, 1,271 men and 1,237 women developed heart failure. After adjustment for other influencing factors (blood pressure, diabetes, body weight, etc.), persons with moderate alcohol consumption (up to seven drinks per week) showed the least risk of heart failure: in men, it was reduced by up to 20 per cent and in women, by up to 16 per cent. The highest likelihood was found in former drinkers (19 per cent in men compared to abstainers, and 17 per cent in women). The scientists defined a drink as one that contains 14 grams of alcohol, which is equivalent to one-eighth of a litre of wine, 0.3 litres of beer or less than one shot of liquor.

Surprisingly, abstainers, as well as persons with higher or very high consumption (14 to 21, respectively more than 21 drinks per week) demonstrated practically the same high risk. But the authors conceded that the number of heavy drinkers among the study participants was very low. However, in the group of heavy drinkers, general mortality was significantly increased (by 47 per cent in men and by 89 per cent in women).

“These findings suggest that drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of heart failure and may even be protective. No level of alcohol intake was associated with a higher risk of heart failure”, concluded study author Scott Solomon.