The use of alcohol as a heart protector: What are benefits of moderate consumption

It's still not good for you but it might have benefits anyway

The use of alcohol as a heart protector: What are benefits of moderate consumption
Photo by Wil Stewart / Unsplash

Alcohol consumption has been the subject of numerous studies in relation to cardiovascular health.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital have conducted an innovative study that reveals an interesting association between alcohol consumption in light to moderate amounts and the reduction of stress signaling in the brain.

These findings could significantly explain the reductions in the risk of heart disease observed in light to moderate drinkers who participated in the study, as published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The Study that Reveals an Important Connection

The study led by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital offers a solid explanation of the association between mild to moderate alcohol consumption and a lower risk of heart disease.

The main objective of the research was to understand how alcohol consumption in these amounts reduces cardiovascular diseases and find alternative approaches that can replicate the protective effects without the adverse impacts of alcohol on health.

Drinking in Moderation: A Strategy for the Heart

Previous epidemiological studies have suggested that mild to moderate alcohol consumption, that is, one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for men, is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, it was not known whether alcohol itself induced these benefits or whether other factors such as health behaviors or the socioeconomic status of moderate drinkers protected their hearts.

Evaluating the Effects of Alcohol Consumption

The study included more than 50,000 people enrolled in the Mass General Brigham Biobank. In the first stage of the study, the relationship between light and moderate alcohol consumption and heart attacks and strokes was evaluated, taking into account genetic, clinical, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors.

The researchers found that light to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiovascular events, even after considering these other factors.

The Impact of Alcohol on Neural Activity

The study also focused on a subset of 754 people who had undergone previous positron emission tomography (PET/CT) brain images, mainly for cancer surveillance. The objective was to determine the effect of light to moderate alcohol consumption on the activity of the neural network related to stress at rest.

Brain images revealed a reduction in stress signaling in the amygdala, the brain region associated with stress responses, in individuals who were light to moderate drinkers compared to those who abstained from drinking alcohol or drank in smaller quantities.

When analyzing the cardiovascular event histories of the people studied, the researchers found a lower incidence of heart attacks and strokes in those who consumed alcohol in a light to moderate way.

These findings highlight that the brain changes observed in moderate drinkers largely explain the protective effects on the cardiovascular system.

It is the first study to indicate that mild to moderate alcohol consumption has long-term neurobiological effects on the cushioning activity in the amygdala, which can have a significant impact on cardiovascular health.