Researchers Uncover Why Light-to-Moderate Drinking Is Tied To Better Heart Health
14 Jun 2023 • A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology revealed that light to moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a long-term reduction in the brain’s stress activity, ultimately lowering the risk of heart disease. Scientists looked at data from over 50,000 individuals enrolled in the Mass General Brigham Biobank to understand exactly how and why previous studies have pointed toward a lower risk of cardiovascular disease for light to moderate drinkers. For the first time, researchers found that alcohol, in light to moderate quantities, was associated with long-term reductions in stress signaling in the brain.
- After adjusting for genetic, clinical, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, they were able to find a lower risk of cardiovascular disease events for light to moderate alcohol consumption.
- Researchers found that one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men is linked with reductions in stress signaling in the brain.
- Compared to those who drank little or completely abstained from alcohol, imaging for those who drank lightly to moderately showed reduced stress signaling in the amygdala.
- “When the amygdala is too alert and vigilant, the sympathetic nervous system is heightened, which drives up blood pressure and increases heart rate, and triggers the release of inflammatory cells,” lead researcher Dr Tawakol said. “If the stress is chronic, the result is hypertension, increased inflammation, and a substantial risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”
“We are not advocating the use of alcohol to reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes because of other concerning effects of alcohol on health,” says senior author and cardiologist Ahmed Tawakol, co-director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We wanted to understand how light to moderate drinking reduces cardiovascular disease, as demonstrated by multiple other studies. And if we could find the mechanism, the goal would be to find other approaches that could replicate or induce alcohol’s protective cardiac effects without the adverse impacts of alcohol.”
Source: Journal of the American College of Cardiology | Read full story