Consumption of seven or fewer alcoholic beverages per week was associated with lower risk for incident HF compared with no alcohol consumption during early middle-age among participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.
This association, which researchers said suggests a potential protective effect of modest alcohol consumption in early middle-age, was less definite in women than men.
The analysis focused on 14,629 participants of the ongoing, prospective, observational Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study with no prevalent HF at baseline. All participants submitted self-reports of weekly alcohol consumption at baseline in 1987 to 1989, and updated cumulative mean alcohol intake was calculated during 8.9 ± 0.3 years. The cohort was 55% female and the mean age was 54 ± 6 years.
For this study, one drink was equal to 14 g of alcohol.
The majority of participants abstained from alcohol (42%) or were former drinkers (19%). Twenty-five percent of participants reported consuming up to seven drinks per week, 8% reported seven to 14 drinks per week, 3% reported 14 to 21 drinks per week and 3% reported 21 or more drinks per week.
Follow-up yielded 1,271 cases of incident HF in men and 1,237 cases in women. After adjustment for confounders, risk for incident HF was significantly lower for men who reported consuming up to seven drinks per week compared with men who abstained from alcohol (HR=0.8; 95% CI, 0.68-0.94). The researchers observed a “less robust,” marginally significant effect in women (HR=0.84; 95% CI, 0.71-1 for ≤7 drinks/week vs. 0).
Risk for incident HF was highest among former drinkers. The data demonstrated no significant difference in risk for HF between participants who reported no alcohol consumption and participants who reported consuming seven or more drinks per week, according to the researchers.
“These findings suggest that drinking alcohol in moderation does not contribute to an increased risk of HF and may even be protective,” Scott D. Solomon, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a press release. “However, heavy alcohol use is certainly a risk factor for deaths from any cause. … It is important to bear in mind that our study shows there is an association between drinking moderate amounts of alcohol and a lower risk of HF, but this does not necessarily mean that moderate alcohol consumption causes the lowered risk.”
Disclosure: The study was supported by grants from the NHLBI and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.