Posted on Dec 28, 2016, 6 a.m.
Drinking up to two alcoholic beverages daily may slow the decline of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol
Consumption of up to two alcoholic beverages a day may slow the decline of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. New research says that moderate intake of alcohol might benefit HDL levels. However, the data suggests differential effects on the basis of the type of alcoholic beverage and other factors.
There are two types of cholesterol:
A. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is referred to as the "bad" cholesterol. It can cause a high-level buildup of plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
B. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol helps to remove the "bad" LDL from the arteries and carries it back to the liver, where it is broken down and is removed from the body. This has earned HDL the title of "good" cholesterol.
A research team from Pennsylvania State University and China’s Kailuan Hospital recently presented findings at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016 in New Orleans, LA. That event, the world’s premier cardiovascular instructional and research meeting in the world, featured five days of the best in clinical, translational, and population content.
The team analyzed data from 80,081 Chinese adults who were an average age of 49 years who were free of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The alcohol intake of the participants was assessed at the baseline in 2006, and they were placed in one of five groups: heavy, moderate, light, past, and never. Moderate drinking was 0.5-1 drink daily for women and one to two drinks a day for men.
The HDL levels were also measured in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012. During follow-up, the subjects did not take LDL-cholesterol lowering medications. The HDL levels of all participants decreased during follow-up. Moderate drinkers experienced a slower HDL decline when compared to never-drinkers and heavy drinkers.
Further analysis showed that a slower decline in HDL cholesterol depended on the type of alcohol consumed. HDL levels fell slower with the moderate intake of beer. Among those who consumed hard liquor, only moderate and light drinkers had a slower HDL decline. An insufficient number of wine drinkers did not allow determination as to whether wine slowed the reduction of good cholesterol.
The team admits that further research is necessary in order to determine whether moderate alcohol intake is of benefit for HDL cholesterol among the populations of other countries. Also, it needs to be determined whether slower HDL reduction that goes along with alcohol consumption is associated with outcomes that are clinically relevant.
This research, however, offers additional support for the possible heart health benefits of moderate drinking when it increases HDL levels. Drinking needs to go along with lifestyle interventions such as eating a healthy diet, doing physical activity, and quitting smoking.
Longitudinal study of alcohol consumption and high-density lipoprotein concentrations: A community-based study, Shue Huang et al., presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016, 12-16 November 2016.