Versão em Português

Does light to moderate alcohol consumption protect against the risk of heart disease?

21 Julho 2023

A study showed that people who consumed light and moderate alcoholic beverages had a reduced risk of developing heart disease caused by stress.

A recent study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (1), evaluated whether light/moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of stress-related adverse cardiovascular events.

A total of 53,000 participants were selected, 60% of whom were women with a mean age of 60 years (IQR: 47-73 years). Individuals who did not drink alcohol or consumed a minimal amount of alcohol were (preferably) female, hypertensive, diabetic with a history of anxiety and depression. Light/moderate drinkers were male, smokers and physically active. The study did not include heavy drinkers.

During the mean follow-up of 3.4 years, 1,914 participants experienced a cardiovascular problem. By analyzing the sample, it was observed that light/moderate alcohol consumption could be associated with a lower risk of heart disease after adjusting for other risk factors. Genetic data were obtained from 8,734 participants and brain imaging from 713, which showed decreased stress-related neural activity. This lower activity partially mediated the “beneficial effect” of light/moderate drinking on the cardiovascular event.

The light/moderate drinking pattern was associated with a greater reduction in the risk of heart problems among individuals with anxiety. However, light/moderate consumption was also associated with non-cardiac adverse effects, such as an increased risk of cancer. Thus, the researchers suggest that the benefit of light/moderate alcohol consumption (compared to no or minimal consumption) on the risk of developing cardiovascular disease stems, in part, from its ability to reduce stress-related brain activity. 

Although these findings may bring more knowledge regarding the effects of light and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, it is important to emphasize that, once again, this is an observational study with limitations. Among these, we highlight the age of the sample (high incidence of comorbidities), the fact that light/moderate consumers are more physically active, self-reported alcohol consumption by participants, a possible methodological error in identifying cardiovascular events, failure to identify ex-drinkers in the non-drinking group and imaging tests performed for oncological surveillance, and not for the study in question.

A study published by the journal JAMA Network Open (2022) shows that the group of light and moderate drinkers had better cardiovascular health indicators than the group of abstainers. These indicators included lower rates of smoking, lower body mass index, higher rate of physical exercise and healthier eating. These factors, together with light/moderate alcohol consumption, would be responsible for a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, according to the World Heart Federation, there is no ideal amount of alcohol good for the heart. More studies are needed to clarify the effects of light/moderate alcohol consumption on heart health. Evidence shows that the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease is to have a healthy diet, avoid smoking, practice physical exercise and avoid the harmful use of alcohol, in addition to having an annual check-up.

Additional Info

  • Referências:

    1- Kenechukwu Mezue, Osborne MT, Shady Abohashem, Hadil Zureigat, Charbel Gharios, Grewal SS, et al. Reduced Stress-Related Neural Network Activity Mediates the Effect of Alcohol on Cardiovascular Risk. 2023 Jun 1;81(24):2315–25.

423 Rócio Street, Rooms 1208/1209
São Paulo - SP - ZIP CODE 04552-000

Phone: +55 11 91257-6108


Subscribe to our newsletter

CISA, Information Center on Alcohol and Health