A low serum level of High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C) is a significant independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, at the same time a high HDL-C has been shown to be protective. The Rancho Bernardo Study compared HDL-C and HDL subclasses of 2171 community-dwelling older adults with their consumption of alcoholic beverages. Participants were categorised according to reported intake of alcoholic beverages (g per week) and frequency of drinking. After adjusting for differences in age, BMI, diabetes, current smoking, exercise and hormone therapy in women, the results showed that regular moderate drinkers had a higher number and percentage of large HDL particles than non-drinkers.
Source: High-density lipoprotein subclasses are a potential intermediary between alcohol intake and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease: The Rancho Bernardo Study. Muth ND, Laughlin GA, von Muhlen D, Smith SC, Barrett-Connor E. Br J Nutr 2010;
These findings indicate that one possible mechanism of alcohol decreasing the CVD risk is through favourable changes in the lipoprotein composition. The authors conducted a cross-sectional study of NMR-derived HDL subclasses and alcohol intake among 2171 community-dwelling older adults with a large proportion of daily or near-daily alcohol consumers (44 %). The study aimed to assess whether, in addition to increasing total HDL, alcohol may induce a beneficial shift in HDL particle size distribution. Participants were categorised based on reported alcohol intake (g per week) and on frequency (none, < 3 times/week, 3-4 times/week, >/= 5 times/week). The association between alcohol intake and lipoprotein fractions was examined using sex-specific linear regression models adjusted for age, BMI, diabetes, current smoking, exercise and hormone therapy in women.
The study found that there was a stepwise gradient with the highest weekly alcohol consumption associated with the highest total HDL size and greatest number of medium and large HDL particles, as well as higher total HDL concentrations (all P < 0.001); total small HDL did not differ. Alcohol-HDL size associations were similar in both sexes and did not differ by use of hormone replacement therapy in women.
The authors conclude that regular alcohol consumers had a higher number and percentage of large HDL particles than non-drinkers. These results suggest that one way that alcohol may decrease cardiovascular disease is through potentially favourable changes in lipoprotein subclass composition.