, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 116-124

Alcohol and atherosclerosis: Recent insights

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Abstract

Light to moderate alcohol intake is known to have cardioprotective properties; however, the magnitude of protection depends on other factors and may be confined to some subsets of the population. This review focuses on factors that modify the relationship between alcohol and coronary heart disease (CHD). The cardio-protective effect of alcohol seems to be larger among middle-aged and elderly adults than among young adults, who do not have a net beneficial effect of a light to moderate alcohol intake in terms of reduced all-cause mortality. The levels of alcohol at which the risk of CHD is lowest and the levels of alcohol at which the risk of CHD exceeds the risk among abstainers are lower for women than for men. The pattern of drinking seems important for the apparent cardioprotective effect of alcohol, and the risk of CHD is generally lower for steady versus binge drinking. Finally, there is some evidence that wine may have more beneficial effects than beer and distilled spirits; however, these results are still controversial and may be confounded by personal characteristics and other lifestyle factors such as diet. The inverse association between alcohol intake and CHD is influenced by age, gender, drinking pattern, and possibly by type of alcohol.