You know that drinking is bad for you and you‘re most likely responsible when it comes to drinking. Maybe sometime you enjoy several alcoholic beverages, but then you can spend some time with no alcohol at all. A new study from UCL actually shows that unstable drinking patterns may be associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Furthermore – moderate drinking could lower the risk of heart disease.
This study, involving 35,132 individuals, found that those who drank moderately, but inconsistently and those who didn’t drink alcohol face a higher risk of coronary heart disease. However, there is a gender difference in this case. Consistent non-drinker women showed higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than consistently moderate drinkers – this effect is significantly less visible between men. In other words, instability in drinking behaviour over time can be associated with a higher risk of developing a heart disease. But why?
Scientists are speculating that inconsistent drinking patterns are a sign of wider lifestyle changes across the course of people’s lives. For example, a period of drinking could be caused by extreme stress or illness. Lifestyle also changes with age, which could also have an effect on person’s drinking patterns. For example, correlation between inconsistent drinking and the risk of coronary heart disease was clearer in the age group of 55+. This could be associated to significant lifestyle changes, such as retirement, which may cause an increase of alcohol intake.
Interestingly, a moderate amount of alcohol could actually have cardioprotective effect. Among the people studied, observed coronary heart disease cases were the least common between heavy drinkers. However, scientists say that heavy drinkers were underrepresented in this study. Dr Dara O’Neill, leader of the study, said: “Given that heavy drinkers are known to be under sampled in population level surveys, interpretation of the absence of effect amongst heavy drinkers in the current study should be done very cautiously, particularly in light of the known wider health impact of heavy alcohol intake levels”. Which would leave us with moderate drinkers with a smaller risk of heart disease.
Everything is better in moderation. You should avoid periods of heavy drinking, even if they are typically short. And don’t feel bad if you enjoy a glass of wine once in a while with your spouse – it may be good for your relationship and, possibly, your health, but only if you do that in moderation.