"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Study: Low alcohol consumption can reduce heart risks

June 13, 2023 – Researchers have discovered why light to moderate alcohol consumption could also be linked to a lower risk of heart problems. Brain imaging showed that the realm of ​​the brain related to the stress response was different in light to moderate drinkers than in individuals who drank little or no or were abstinent.

Light to moderate alcohol consumption was defined as one drink per day for ladies and one to 2 drinks per day for men. The risk of a serious heart problem, corresponding to a heart attack, was 22% lower in light to moderate drinkers than in individuals who rarely drank or abstained altogether.

“We found that the changes in the brain in light to moderate drinkers explain a significant part of the protective effect on the heart,” said researcher and cardiologist Ahmed Tawakol of Massachusetts General Hospital in a opinion.

The Results were published in the most recent issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology. For the study, researchers analyzed health data from 53,064 people, in search of links between heart problems and alcohol consumption. The average age of the people studied was 60 years old and 60% were women. The researchers also examined brain images from 754 people to research brain differences based on their alcohol consumption.

The authors wrote that they selected to check the realm of ​​the brain related to stress because alcohol has been shown to cut back responsiveness to “threatening stimuli” within the amygdala region of the brain accountable for emotions. Because the stress mechanism highlighted of their research can also be linked to anxiety, the researchers decided to research data from people diagnosed with anxiety disorders. They found that those with low to moderate alcohol consumption and anxiety had almost twice the chance of heart problems.

The researchers reiterated recent health warnings that no amount of alcohol is protected – for instance, individuals who drank frivolously to moderately within the study had a 23% increased risk of cancer than individuals who rarely or never drank alcohol. Rather, this latest study is designed to explore the mechanism within the body that has been linked to previous findings that drinking small amounts of alcohol reduces the chance of heart problems, they said.

In conclusion, the study authors wrote that “given the potential health harms of alcohol, latest interventions with similar effects on [stress signaling in the brain] is required.”

Tawakol reiterated this, saying that now that this mechanism has been identified through this research, the next step is to “find other approaches that may mimic or elicit the heart-protective effects of alcohol without the negative effects of alcohol.”