Analysis

Can alcohol reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease? - International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 177

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While there have been many observational studies of the relation of alcohol consumption to health risks and benefits, the number of clinical trials of alcohol administration for its health effects are limited.

The latest critique from the ISFAR considers research into the cardiovascular side of alcohol consumption

The latest critique from the ISFAR considers research into the cardiovascular side of alcohol consumption

A recent paper is based on a controlled diet cross-over trial among 53 post-menopausal women. A standard diet was provided for a period of six months; two meals each weekday were consumed at the study facility and food was provided for other meals.

To the standard meal, during three eight-week interventions, either 0, 15g, or 30g of alcohol (ethanol) were added to the daily diet, with the two doses of alcohol the equivalent of a little over one typical drink and 2½ typical drinks.

Weight remained stable and no adverse effects were reported.

The key results of the trial were that, during periods when alcohol was consumed, there were small but significant decreases in markers of cellular adhesion molecules and components in the hemostatic pathway; these are indices of inflammation and the effects are consistent with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Specifically, reductions were seen when alcohol was administered for s-ICAM, fibrinogen, and D-dimer, all of which would be expected to lower CVD risk. PAI-1 increased with alcohol, and there were no effects on CRP, Factor VIIc or IL-6.

While there were a number of questions about the study, ISFAR members considered that, overall, this was a very well-done, difficult-to-carry-out study that shows alcohol's beneficial effects on a number of inflammatory and hemostatic factors. The results are in line with many observational studies, although some previous intervention studies have found such effects only after the administering of wine (but not of gin), suggesting a key effect of the polyphenols in wine.

This study indicates that ethanol itself may have similar beneficial effects on mechanisms that relate to the development of cardiovascular disease.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.


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