New Study Confirms Possible Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Washington, DC – Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality from all-causes, according to a new, large study of over 333,000 U.S. adults published yesterday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study findings did not differentiate between beer, wine and spirits.

The study concluded that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a 21 percent and 34 percent decreased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and a 13 percent and 25 percent decreased risk of all-cause mortality, respectively, in both men and women.  Similar findings were observed for light drinking among men and women.

The researchers found, “the protective effect of light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was more pronounced in women, middle-aged and older populations.”

The researchers noted that previous studies showed that “all alcoholic drinks at moderate level were associated with lower risk of heart disease, suggesting a major benefit is from ethanol rather than other components of each type of drink.”

In the study, a drink-equivalent is defined as 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5 percent alcohol); 5 fluid ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40 percent alcohol).

“Sick Quitters Issue Addressed by Study”

The researchers divided alcohol consumption patterns into six categories: lifetime abstainers, lifetime infrequent drinkers, former drinkers and current light (less than three drinks per week), moderate (more than three drinks per week to less than 14 drinks per week for men or less than seven drinks per week for women) or heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week for men or seven drinks per week for women).

Sreenivas Veeranki, MD, DrPH, one of the study authors stated the researchers took “rigorous statistical approaches” to address the “sick quitter phenomenon.”

This is particularly noteworthy given that a few researchers have called into question the potential benefits of moderate drinking claiming flaws in the methodology of studies that grouped abstainers with former drinkers, who may have stopped consuming alcohol for health reasons.

In an accompanying editorial, Giovanni de Gaetano, MD, PhD, stated, “The number of people involved in their study was impressive, the methodology sound (inclusion of only lifetime abstainers in the reference group), and the statistical approach correct…The results supported the conclusion that the J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality risk cannot be dismissed.”

In the study, researchers from the University of Texas and Shandong University in China reviewed data from 333,247 U.S. adults obtained through the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 to 2009.

Dr. Sam Zakhari, Senior Vice President of Science for the Distilled Spirits Council stated, “This study adds to the large body of science on the potential health benefits of moderate consumption of alcohol.  Importantly, the authors make clear, light-to-moderate drinking might be protective, but heavy drinking has serious health consequences.”

The Distilled Spirits Council does not recommend that people drink alcohol to obtain potential health benefits and has always encouraged those adults who choose to drink to do so responsibly and in moderation.  Even drinking in moderation may pose health risks to some people and some individuals should not drink at all.


Study Press Release

Study Abstract