Saturday, 17 October 2015

Alcohol, cardiovascular risk, and the NZ Heart Foundation

I'd chided the NZ Heart Foundation for ignoring the cardiovascular benefits of moderate drinking in their heart-health calculator. In comments over at SciBlogs, the Heart Foundation said why:
Heart Foundation says:

Hi Eric,
The reason the Heart Foundation doesn’t include alcohol consumption in its heart age forecast tool is because the relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular disease is so complex. Our general advice is not to consume alcohol as a way of lowering your risk of heart disease. Although the most up to date scientific research suggests there may be some benefits of alcohol for reducing heart disease for some people, this is not the case for everyone, even when consumption is low or moderate. For most people there will be little, or no, overall benefit. Because the research is inconclusive, we don’t include alcohol consumption in our forecast tool.
However, there are many other things with a much stronger evidence base that people can do to reduce their risk of heart disease. These include giving up smoking, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. More advice is available here
Kind regards,
Heart Foundation
I'd there replied with a reasonable list of recent articles demonstrating clear cardio benefits of moderate drinking.

Vox this week summarised the literature and reached the same conclusion I did. There are clear cardiovascular benefits from light to moderate drinking. Here's their article and their research summary. I'll note that when they say that there's increased risk after a drink a day, that's increase relative to the point where the health benefits are strongest. If you're looking at all-source mortality risk and comparing to a non-drinking baseline, there remain net health benefits up to about 3-4 standard drinks per day - beyond that, and there's increased risk.

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