Alcohol does not prevent heart disease


Dr Gabe Mirkin

If you think moderate alcohol consumption helps prevent heart attacks, think again. The alcoholic beverage industry promotes studies showing that moderate drinkers live slightly longer than non-drinkers, but the non-drinker groups in these studies included people who gave up alcohol on the instructions of the drinker. their doctors: those with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, certain types of cancer, heart, kidney, liver or lung disease or other health problems, and recovering alcoholics. A recent study with a 20-year follow-up of 4,028 German adults aged 18 to 64 found that when people who had stopped drinking for medical reasons were removed from the control group, moderate drinkers did not live longer. than non-drinkers (PLOS MedicineNov 2 2021; 18 (11): e1003819).

An earlier analysis of 45 studies of over 9,000 UK adults showed that once researchers removed people who quit drinking alcohol for critical health reasons, the drinkers showed no benefit. on non-drinkers. The authors of this review believe that no one should drink because they have been told that alcohol has health benefits (J Stud Alcohol and Drugs2017 May; 78 (3): 375-386).

Alcohol and heart damage
Drinking any amount of alcohol is associated with an increased risk of irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation (European Heart J, Mar 21, 2021; 42 (12): 1170-1177). A study of 79,000 Swedish adults, aged 45 to 83, followed up to 12 years, showed that those who drank any amount of wine or alcohol daily had an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a abnormally fast heartbeat which can cause clots, stroke and heart failure (J American College of Cardiology, July 14, 2014). The more they drank, the more likely they were to develop atrial fibrillation.

People who have only one drink a day have an increased risk of heart disease (J American College of Cardiology, December 5, 2016) and an enlarged upper heart and irregular heartbeat that causes clots and strokes (J Am Heart Assoc2016 Sep 14; 5: e004060; J Am Coll Cardiol, 2016; 68 (23): 2567-2576). Binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks at one time, further increased the risk. Data from six studies of more than 12,500 cases of atrial fibrillation showed that each additional drink per day of any type of alcohol increased the risk of an irregular heartbeat by eight percent (J Am Coll Card, July 14, 2014). Many other studies have linked alcohol use to atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke. The association is not a cause, but I think these studies call for caution.

Some heart benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol continue to appear in other studies. A recent study of 48,423 British men and women found that light drinking was associated with a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke or death in people with heart disease (BMC MedicineJul 26, 2021; 19 (167)). However, the authors conclude that their study “should not encourage non-drinkers to drink lightly because of the known harmful effects on other health problems, such as cancer.” See Alcohol at any dose can increase the risk of cancer

Alcohol and your liver
Alcohol is a poison that has a strong affinity to bind to water, so it extracts water from cells and causes them to shrivel up like a prune. Alcohol can damage all types of cells in your body, and your liver is the only organ that protects you. Your liver breaks down alcohol at a relatively constant rate, but the alcohol is first converted to acetaldehyde, which is even more toxic. It can make you want to throw up and burn your face.

Regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of permanent liver damage called cirrhosis (Journal of hepatology, January 26, 2015). Wine is associated with a lower risk of liver damage than beer or alcohol. The authors of this study warn that older drinkers are more likely to have health problems affected by alcohol or to take drugs that impair their ability to metabolize alcohol.

My recommendations
Many people mistakenly believe that it is safe for women to have up to one drink per day and for men to have up to two drinks per day. Almost 30 percent of North Americans drink more than this. The studies I have listed in this article and many others suggest that no amount of alcohol is “safe” or beneficial. Whatever decision you make regarding your own alcohol consumption, don’t base your decision on bad information from the alcoholic beverage industry.

Dr Gabe Mirkin is a villager. Learn more about


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