The idea that alcohol may be good for your heart has been around for a while. (But while moderate drinking may offer health benefits, drinking more can cause a host of health problems.) Here's what you need to know...
Research on Alcohol and Heart Disease
As research on this topic has continued to expand, researchers recently conducted another systematic review of 63 studies that examined adults without known cardiovascular disease before and after alcohol use. This latest meta-analysis was published in a 2011 issue of the British Medical Journal.
The analysis of these numerous studies suggests that moderate alcohol consumption (defined below) helps to protect against heart disease by:
- Raising HDL "good" cholesterol
- Increasing apolipoprotein A1, a protein that has a specific role in lipid (fat) metabolism and is a major component of HDL "good" cholesterol
- Decreasing fibrinogen, a soluble plasma glycoprotein that is a part of blood clot formation
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing plaque accumulation in the arteries
- Decreasing the clumping of platelets and the formation of blood clots
However, these studies did not show any relationship between moderate alcohol intake and total cholesterol level or LDL "bad" cholesterol. And while some studies associated alcohol intake to increased triglycerides, the most recent analysis of moderate alcohol intake in healthy adults showed no such relationship.
What's the Definition of "Moderate" Alcohol Consumption?
A moderate alcohol intake is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. One drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol and is defined as:
- 12 fl. oz. of regular beer (5% alcohol)
- 4-5 fl. oz. of wine (12% alcohol)
- 1.5 fl. oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
- 1 fl. oz. of 100-proof distilled spirits (50% alcohol)
Are Certain Types of Alcohol Better Than Others?
While a few research studies suggest that wine maybe more beneficial than beer or sprits in the prevention of heart disease, most studies do not support an association between type of alcoholic beverage and the prevention of heart disease. At present time, drinking wine for its antioxidant content to prevent heart disease is an unproven strategy. It still remains unclear whether red wine offers any heart-protecting advantage over white wine or other types of alcoholic beverages.
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