US scientists found that when compared to being teetotal or indulging in excessive levels of alcohol, moderate drinking – equivalent to one drink for women and two for men per day – is associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
The preliminary research, which was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session and has not yet been published in a journal, is based on a healthcare survey of more than 53,000 people. The study considered data from participants who self-reported their alcohol intake as ‘low’ – or less than one drink per week – ‘moderate’ (one to 14 drinks per week), or ‘high’, which was over 14.
Around 15% (7,905) of the participants experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event, with 17% in the low alcohol intake group and 13% in the moderate intake group.
Findings showed that compared with low or no alcohol intake, those who reported drinking in moderation had a 20% lower chance of experiencing a major cardiovascular event and lower stress-related brain activity.
It was also found that those who drank 1-2 drinks on a daily basis had a lower-level of stress-related brain activity, suggesting that moderate alcohol reduces stress signals from the brain.
Dr Kenechukwu Mezue, who is a fellow in nuclear cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the research, said: “The current study suggests that moderate alcohol intake beneficially affects the brain-heart connection.”
“We found that stress-related activity in the brain was higher in non-drinkers when compared with people who drank moderately, while people who drank excessively (more than 14 drinks per week) had the highest level of stress-related brain activity.”
He commented, “The thought is that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels and, perhaps through these mechanisms, lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”