Alcohol Exerts a Shifted U-Shaped Effect on Central Blood Pressure in Young Adults



Consumption of 1–2 alcoholic beverages daily has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in middle-aged and older adults. Central blood pressure has emerged as a better predictor of cardiovascular risk than peripheral blood pressure. However, the effects of habitual alcohol consumption on central blood pressure particularly in young adults, who are among the largest consumers of alcohol in North America, have yet to be investigated.


We aimed to study the effect of alcohol consumption on central and peripheral blood pressure, and arterial stiffness in young adults.


Cross-sectional observational study.

Main Measures

Using a standardized questionnaire, alcohol consumption (drinks/week) was queried; participants were classified as non- (< 2), light (2–6), moderate (women 7–9, men 7–14), and heavy drinkers (women > 9, men > 14). Central blood pressure and arterial stiffness were measured using applanation tonometry.

Key Results

We recruited 153 healthy, non-smoking, non-obese individuals. We found a U-shaped effect of alcohol consumption on blood pressure. Light drinkers had significantly lower central systolic and mean arterial blood pressure, but not peripheral blood pressure when compared to non- and moderate/heavy drinkers (P < 0.05). No significant associations with arterial stiffness parameters were noted.


A U-shaped relationship was found between alcohol consumption and central and mean arterial blood pressure in young individuals, which importantly, was shifted towards lower levels of alcohol consumption than currently suggested. This is the first study, to our knowledge, that examines the effect of alcohol consumption on central blood pressure and arterial stiffness exclusively in young individuals. Prospective studies are needed to confirm the relationships observed herein.

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Figure 1


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We would like to thank Yessica Gomez Sandoval, Andrew Mutter, Tania Giannone, Giordano Egiziano, Nahid Punjani, and Andrew Dawson for their valuable contribution in data collection.


This study was funded in part by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (#102626). Dr. Daskalopoulou is supported by a senior clinician scientist award from the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.

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Correspondence to Stella S. Daskalopoulou MD, MSc, DIC, PhD.

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Yu, A., Cooke, A.B., Scheffler, P. et al. Alcohol Exerts a Shifted U-Shaped Effect on Central Blood Pressure in Young Adults. J GEN INTERN MED (2021).

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  • central blood pressure
  • peripheral blood pressure
  • arterial stiffness
  • alcohol consumption
  • young adults