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Moderate alcohol consumption associated with significantly lower rates of cardiac events and longer survival, independent of its anti-inflammatory effect
A study by Maraldi C et al at the Department of aging and Geriatric research at the University of Florida has investigated the relationship of alcohol intake with all-cause mortality and cardiac events. Maraldi’s team also looked at blood levels of two inflammation-related proteins, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP), to see whether alcohol might bestow its health benefits by acting as an anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to the hardening and narrowing of coronary arteries. and evaluated whether this relationship is mediated or modified by inflammatory markers.

The analysis included 2487 subjects, aged 70 to 79 years, without baseline coronary heart disease (CHD) or heart failure (HF), participating in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition study. All-cause mortality and incident cardiac events (CHD and HF) were detected during a mean follow-up of 5.6 years. Alcohol consumption and serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were assessed at baseline.

A total of 397 participants died, and 383 experienced an incident cardiac event. Compared with never or occasional drinkers, subjects drinking 1 to 7 drinks per week had lower age-, sex-, and race-adjusted incidences of death (27.4 vs 20.1 per 1000 person-years, respectively) and cardiac events (28.9 vs 20.8 per 1000 person-years).

After adjustment for confounders, compared with never or occasional drinkers, light to moderate drinkers (1-7 drinks per week) showed a decreased risk of death (hazard ratio [HR], 0.75; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.56-1.00) and cardiac events (HR, 0.72; CI, 0.54-0.97). Adjustment for potential mediators, and particularly inflammatory marker levels, did not affect the strength of this association.

Low IL-6 and CRP levels did not, explain the link between light drinking and lower heart disease risk. Men with high IL-6 levels appeared to benefit the most from having a moderate consumption. This, according to the researchers, may suggest that people who are already at heightened risk of heart disease stand to gain the most from light drinking.

Source: Impact of Inflammation on the Relationship Among Alcohol Consumption, Mortality, and Cardiac Events - The Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study Cinzia Maraldi et al Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1490-1497

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