Page last updated: Monday, January 30, 2006
Moderate alcohol consumption can act as a ‘blood thinner’
Population studies have shown that moderate drinkers tend to have lower rates of heart disease but higher rates of bleeding-type strokes than abstainers. A potential mediator of these two contrasting effects of alcohol may be platelet function. A recent study published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research confirms that moderate drinking has effects on blood coagulation - primarily as a “blood thinner” - which can have both positive and negative effects. “The contrasting effects of alcohol are similar to the effects of blood thinners like aspirin, which clearly prevent heart attacks but at the expense of some additional bleeding strokes,” said Kenneth J. Mukamal, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and corresponding author for the study. Moderate alcohol consumption can act as a ‘blood thinner’. “Acting as a blood thinner makes sense, because heart attacks are caused by blood clots that form in clogged arteries, and blood thinners can hasten bleeding from injured arteries. Based on these findings, we speculated that moderate drinking would also act as a blood thinner”. Previous research had shown that moderate drinkers tend to have “less sticky” platelets than abstainers, meaning that fewer blood elements cluster to form blood clots. “Yet no one before had looked at whether alcohol affects how easily platelets are activated,...This is important because activated platelets are much stickier than normal ones.”

Mukamal said. “We found that among both men and women, an intake of three to six drinks per week or more was linked to lower levels of stickiness measured by aggregability,”

“Among the men, we also found that alcohol intake was linked to lower levels of platelet activation. Together, these findings identify moderate drinking as a potential blood thinner.” Mukamal added that the minor differences found between the men and women were more likely due to statistical issues than to any clear gender differences. “Our findings add to a large body of evidence showing that moderate drinking has effects on blood coagulation, which may have both good and bad effects, but now identify a new avenue by which this effect may occur..”

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