A study recently published in Circulation: Heart Failure looked at the effect of alcohol intake on heart failure risk in men. Although heavy alcohol consumption increases risk for heart failure, research suggests that moderate drinking—defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men—could have a protective effect on the heart.
To learn more, researchers followed a total of 33,760 men for 13 years, tracking both drinking habits and cardiovascular health. Most men reported consuming less than one drink a day. Over the course of the study, nearly 3,000 men were hospitalized for heart failure.
Unlike other studies, which tend to include non-drinkers, former drinkers and current drinkers, this study included only men who abstained from drinking or drank regularly throughout adulthood. In doing so, authors hoped to more accurately measure the impact of drinking or abstaining from drinking on heart failure risk.
After analysis, researchers found a “U-shaped” relationship between alcohol intake and risk for heart failure. This means that heart failure risk was greatest at either end of the drinking spectrum and moderate drinkers had the lowest risk for heart failure among all participants. In fact, men consuming one to two drinks a day had 19% lower risk of heart failure compared to men who never drank.
This study adds to a growing body of evidence that moderate alcohol consumption has a protective effect on heart health. A wealth of research suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption reduces risk for a number of conditions, such as heart failure and heart disease. However, it’s important to note that findings from the Cohort of Swedish Men study can only be applied to men, since no women were included in the study.
Although moderate drinking may have certain heart health benefits, experts do not recommend that non-drinkers start drinking for this purpose. The health benefits associated with alcohol only apply to moderate drinkers.