Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Alcohol Consumption and the Prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome in the US
Metabolic syndrome has become increasingly common with the rapid increase in obesity in populations around the world, and its combination of metabolic and lipid disorders are strong factors in the development of most cardiovascular diseases. 

In this cross-sectional analysis of data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination survey 8,125 participants were evaluated for each component of metabolic syndrome, using the National Cholesterol Education Program’s criteria, fasting insulin, and alcohol consumption.

After adjustment for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, tobacco use, physical activity, and diet, subjects who consumed 1-19 and 20+ drinks of alcohol per month had odds ratios for the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome of 0.65 and 0.34, respectively, compared with current nondrinkers. These findings were particularly noteworthy for beer and wine drinkers.

The authors conclude that mild to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, with a favorable influence on lipids, waist circumference, and fasting insulin. This association was strongest among whites and among beer and wine drinkers. This could be due to biologic differences by race, but is more likely to relate to “healthier” drinking practices among whites (smaller amounts per occasion, more regular consumption rather than binge drinking, etc.).

Curtis Ellison Chief of Preventative Medicine and Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Medicine comments ‘This significant and rather striking reduction in the risk of metabolic syndrome among drinkers should not be surprising, as we and many others have previously shown that alcohol is the predominant lifestyle factor affecting levels of HDL-cholesterol, favorably affects glucose metabolism and, when consumed moderately, tends to be associated with less obesity: these are three of the key components of the metabolic syndrome.  Even though larger intake of alcohol increases blood pressure, the effect is modest in comparison with the beneficial effects on the other components of the syndrome.’

Source:  David Aguilar D, Skali H,  Moye LA, Lewis EF, Gaziano JM, Rutherford JD, Hartley LH, Randall OS, Geltman EM, Lamas GA, Rouleau JL, Pfeffer MA, Solomon SD

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