15 May Is Alcohol Really Good For Your Heart?
By Toby Amidor, MS, RDN
We’ve all heard that drinking red wine in moderation is good for your heart, but is that really true?
A recent study published in British Medical Journal looked at the link between alcohol consumption and 12 different heart conditions in almost 2 million British adults. The study found that those who didn’t drink had a 12-56% higher risk for 8 out of 12 common heart conditions, compared to those that reported drinking moderately. Two of the most common heart conditions, heart attacks and strokes, were included in the 8 conditions in which alcohol seemed to provide protection.
The researchers separated people into two categories— drinkers and non-drinkers. They further separated the non-drinkers into “those who never drank before” and “those who don’t drink now, but have drank heavily in the past.” Both of those non-drinking groups had a higher risk of heart conditions, suggesting that the increased risk of heart conditions is not from drinking in the past but, rather, from NOT drinking at all. The study looked all alcoholic drinks as a whole, so it isn’t clear if there are differences based on the type of alcohol consumed (beer, wine, or spirits).
What’s considered moderate drinking?
According to The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, enjoying alcohol in moderation is defined as a maximum of 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. A drink is either 12 fluid ounces of beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits (like rum or vodka).
What’s an alcohol lover to do?
While the findings support the connection between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced risk of some types of heart disease, this isn’t a good reason to start drinking. Plus, excessive drinking can actually increase your risk of heart disease, along with certain cancers and liver disease. A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, adequate sleep and a heart healthy foods should be your first line of defense against heart disease. But if you occasionally enjoy 1 or 2 drinks a day (for women and men, respectively), there’s no harm in continuing to do so.