A study has suggested that drinking a little alcohol every day and in moderation could be the key to a healthier lifestyle.
Professor Imre Janszky, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), says that a small amount of alcohol does more good for your heart when you consume it in moderation.
Janszky also says that the type of alcohol is irrelevant, it could be beer, lager, wine or spirits.
“It’s primarily the alcohol that leads to more good cholesterol, among other things. But alcohol can also cause higher blood pressure. So it’s best to drink moderate amounts relatively often,” he says.
Janszky and his team from the NTNU and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have published two studies so far. Both looked at the relationship between heart health and alcohol.
In both studies, the results showed that the people who consumed a small amount of alcohol, on a regular basis, had better cardiovascular health than those who drank little or no alcohol.
Those who drank 3 to 5 drinks per week were 33% less likely to suffer from heart failure than those who did not drink or drank infrequently.
Where heart attacks were concerned, the risk was lowered by 28% with each additional drink consumed.
Although the general population may be surprised by these results, researchers have always believed that around 3 to 5 drinks a week are good for your heart health.
Earlier studies have typically shown results that have supported this theory. However, there is one anomaly, and that is the drinking patterns of different countries.
“The relationship between alcohol and heart health has been studied in many countries, including the USA and southern European nations. The conclusions have been the same, but the drinking patterns in these countries are very different than in Norway. In countries like France and Italy, very few people don’t drink,” says Janszky.
“It raises the question as to whether earlier findings can be fully trusted, if other factors related to non-drinkers might have influenced research results. It may be that these are people who previously had alcohol problems, and who have stopped drinking completely,” he says.
It is because of this that the team at NTNU want to study the Norwegian population, as in Norway, a very large proportion of the country rarely drink, if not at all.
In the study conducted by the NTNU, the highest risk was for those who drank too much alcohol, but also, surprisingly, those who rarely or never drank. In fact, the more regularly a person drank alcohol, within normal amounts, the lower their heart risk became.
People who drank more than 5 times a month had a 21% lower risk as compared to those who didn’t drink and those who drank little. Those who drank between 1 and 5 times a month had only a 2% lower risk.
Janszky is clear about one thing that his results have shown:
“I’m not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time. We’ve only been studying the heart, and it’s important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart,” says Janszky.
Another problem with the study was that only a few people in it drank a lot. Therefore the results cannot clearly conclude whether a high alcoholic intake is good for a healthy heart.
It also does not look at alcohol in relation to other parts of the body, such as the liver and kidneys, which can suffer when there is a high consumption of alcohol.
For example, high alcohol consumption is strongly linked to an increased risk of liver failure.
As always, moderation is key it appears.