On Second Thought: Light Drinking Might Not Be Good For the Heart After All

By Bryan Le 07/14/14

Widely held beliefs may dictate that light drinking can be good for the heart, but a group of researchers say otherwise.


A large body of studies says that light drinking can carry health benefits, but one group of researchers begs to differ. After analyzing more than 50 studies that measured the heart health and drinking habits for a total of more than 260,000 people, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that those with a gene for lower alcohol tolerance had healthier hearts.

This gene in particular affects a person's reaction to alcohol, which can cause unpleasant effects such as nausea and facial flushing after drinking. These side effects can be shown to reduce drinking over the long term, researchers explained. This means those with this gene had lower blood pressure, lower body-mass index and a 10% lower risk of heart disease.

The findings seemed to indicate that it's actually cutting alcohol intake that will definitively benefit heart health.

"While the damaging effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the heart are well-established, for the last few decades we've often heard reports of the potential health benefits of light-to-moderate drinking," said study senior author Professor Juan Casas, a professor of epidemiology at the university.

"However, we now have evidence that some of these studies suffer from limitations that may affect the validity of their findings," Casas continued. "In our study, we saw a link between a reduced consumption of alcohol and improved cardiovascular health, regardless of whether the individual was a light, moderate or heavy drinker."

Large-scale genetic studies are needed in order to confirm these findings, but any study which surveys drinking habits is difficult because people tend to provide inaccurate accounts of their personal alcohol intake, according to the researchers.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter