older-adults-with-moderate-alcohol-consumption-may-have-decreased-risk-of-heart-disease,-study-suggests

Older adults who drink moderate amounts of alcohol may have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and a lower risk of mortality from all causes, compared to those who do not drink, according to a study published last month in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology

The study looked at more than 18,000 individuals over the age of 70 from the United States and Australia. 

“Modest alcohol intake in this group of healthy older adults was not harmful for CVD or overall mortality,” Dr. Johannes Neumann, who led the team of researchers from Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, in Australia, said in a release. The lead author of the study also said, “Further research is warranted to evaluate causal biological effects of alcohol on health and possible behavioral advantages of social drinking and engagement,” according to the release. 

According to a news release, it is the first study to explore the association of alcohol consumption on heart health and mortality, from all causes, in initially older healthy adults.  

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A standard drink was considered 14 g for U.S. participants and 10 g for Australian participants, according to the news release.   

A standard drink was considered 14 g for U.S. participants and 10 g for Australian participants, according to the news release.    (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The researchers noted in the release that although excessive alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for mortality and is a leading contributor to global burden of disease, prior studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake may be associated with a decreased risk of events related to cardiovascular disease. The authors said that the evidence is based on data from younger individuals and older adults is lacking, according to the published report.  

“Thus, we sought to investigate the risk of CVD events and all-cause mortality associated with alcohol consumption in initially healthy, older individuals,” the authors said in their study.   

Neumann and his research team looked at data from almost 18,000 ASPREE participants who were over 70 years of age. The ASPREE project is a bi-national study (Australia and U.S.) that looks at aspirin and the wellbeing, quality of life and overall health in older adults. Participants in the alcohol consumption study did not have any prior cardiovascular disease events, and no diagnosis of dementia or physical disability that limited their independence, according to the release.  

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) events included in the study were defined as non-fatal myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease death, stroke that is fatal and nonfatal, non-coronary cardiac or vascular death, and hospitalization for heart failure.   

The authors of the published peer-reviewed study said participants were asked in a self-reported questionnaire about how many alcoholic beverages they consumed each day and how many days a week they consumed alcohol. The study did not include individuals who drank alcohol and stopped for health reasons. Alcohol intake was measured in grams per week. A standard drink was considered 14 g for U.S. participants and 10 g for Australian participants, according to the news release.  

The study suggested that alcohol consumption of 51–100 g/week (five drinks for Australian and 3.5 drinks for Americans), was associated with a decreased chance of all-cause mortality.

The study suggested that alcohol consumption of 51–100 g/week (five drinks for Australian and 3.5 drinks for Americans), was associated with a decreased chance of all-cause mortality. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The researchers followed the participants for an average of  4.7 years and found a reduced risk of CVD events for people who consumed alcohol of 51–100g/wk , (Australian equivalent: 5 drinks, U.S.: 3.5 drinks),  101–150g/wk, (Australian: 5-10 drinks, U.S.: 3.5-7 drinks) and >150 g/week (Australians: 15 drinks, U.S. 7-10 drinks), compared to those who never consumed alcohol, regardless of gender, according to the report.  

The study authors said in their study, the findings also suggested that alcohol consumption of 51–100 g/week (five drinks for Australian and 3.5 drinks for Americans), was associated with a decreased chance of all-cause mortality. 

Dr. Neumann, the lead author of the study, said in the release, “The findings need to be interpreted with caution, as study participants were all initially healthy without prior CVD or other severe diseases, and may have been more physically and socially active than the wider aging population.” 

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(Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Neumann also cautioned in the news release that there’s prior evidence that excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of other diseases, including liver disease, certain cancers, or pancreatitis. 

According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency, who did not take part in this study, “the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed, to reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms.”

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