Moderate drinkers are less likely to suffer heart attacks than teetotallers

    19 February 2016

    People who drink regularly are less prone to heart failure and heart attacks than teetotallers, according to research by Imre Janszky, a professor of social medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

    A study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, found that having two and a half to five drinks a week reduced the incidence of an acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) by 28 per cent among men.

    The study followed nearly 60,000 participants. Nearly 3,000 of these suffered a heart attack between 1995 and 2008.

    It concluded that drinking moderately and often was most strongly associated with a reduced heart attack risk.

    The study pointed out that abstinence was relatively common in Norway and was ‘not socially stigmatised’ — which some claim is a potentially confounding factor.

    Expert verdict
    This is a robust piece of research with multiple confounders analysed and accounted for. Because it was not a randomised trial, it is difficult to say any more than that there is an association and not a causal relationship between light drinking and risk of acute myocardial infarction. Also little information is given on how many of the patients sustaining myocardial infarction had comorbidities.
    Research score: 4/5

    Janszky has published two studies on the relationship between alcohol and heart health. In both cases, his research shows that people who regularly drink moderate amounts of alcohol have better cardiovascular health than those who consume little or none.

    Those who drank three to five times a week were 33 per cent less prone to heart failure than teetotallers, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cardiology.

    Janszky said the benefits were the same whether you drank wine, spirits or beer.

    ‘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 said.

    He added: ‘I’m not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time. We’ve only been studying the heart, and it’s important to emphasise 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.’