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More evidence that alcohol is not good for your heart


More evidence that alcohol is not good for your heart

The harmful effects of alcohol on conditions such as liver cirrhosis, injuries, and many cancers have been firmly established, but scientific debate has continued about whether light to moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Many studies show a benefit of light drinking compared with no drinking, but this is highly disputed because the design of the studies means there are other explanations for the findings that cannot be ruled out.

Breakthrough research published this week in the British Medical Journal suggests that the sceptics are right.

Michael Holmes of University College London and Caroline Dale of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, writing on behalf a huge consortium of eminent researchers, report the findings of a new approach to answering this question.

With a quarter of a million participants, this headline study shows that individuals of European descent with a genetic predisposition to consume less alcohol had a reduced risk of coronary heart disease and ischaemic stroke, and lower levels of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Professor Jennie Connor, a medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action New Zealand, says

“People with the genetic variant drank less or no alcohol at all. They were not otherwise different from the general population, but had lower blood pressure, were slimmer, and had lower risk of both coronary heart disease and the most common form of stroke.”

“The findings were similar across all levels of drinking, not just among heavier drinkers. This shows that reductions of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, are likely to be beneficial for cardiovascular health.”

“This is a major challenge to the idea that light to moderate alcohol consumption is good for your heart, and supports the contention that the previous studies have been flawed”

Professor Doug Sellman added,

“This is an important turning point in the discussion of benefits of drinking for physical health. What was previously doubtful is now very unlikely indeed”

“For a long time the supposed benefits of drinking have been promoted by the industry, the media and by some health professionals. It is time to stop”


Holmes MV, Dale CE et al. Association between alcohol and cardiovascular disease: Mendelian randomisation analysis based on individual participant data. BMJ 2014;349:g4164 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g4164 (Published 10 July 2014)

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