Study: Moderate Drinking's Not Heart-Protective for Most

Moderate alcohol consumption can protect against coronary heart disease. But according to a study of 618 Swedes with coronary artery disease, that is true only for those who have a particular genetic makeup, a mere 15% of the general population.

Moderate alcohol consumption can protect against coronary heart disease. But according to a study of 618 Swedes with coronary artery disease, that is true only for those who have a particular genetic makeup, a mere 15% of the general population.

Writing in the November 2014 edition of the journal Alcohol Kirsten Mehlig and colleagues at the Sahlgrenska Academy of the University of Gothenburg say that the cardio-protective effect appears to be related to a genotype of the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) polymorphism. An earlier study confirmed that finding in men.

In the new study, the team looked at 618 patients of both sexes with coronary heart disease (CHD) and 2,921 controls (also of both sexes though women were underrepresented in the study). The subjects were tested to see if they had a particular genotype (CETP TaqIB).

About 19% of the subjects had the protective polymorphism.

The subjects were also grouped by how much alcohol they reported consuming daily.

The researchers found that CETP TaqIB does appear to be protective, for those who carry it. Based on blood tests, the team found a beneficial effect that did not appear to be correlated with any factor other than having CETP TaqIB.

The genotype affects the cardio-protective HDL cholesterol that helps remove excess lipids from the blood vessels.

The team said it was not certain how it also works in connection with alcohol consumption.

Eventually, there could be a test to see if a person carries the genotype.

Meanwhile, drinkers should not be reassured that imbibing is good for them.

“The common attitude today is that moderate alcohol intake will decrease everyone’s risk of CHD,” the authors wrote, “This message may be too general and should be assessed in light of the weak overall effect of alcohol on CD in the general population and the emerging knowledge about genetic susceptibility.”

Discussing the study in a interview on the university’s website, Dag Thelle, a professor at the academy, said such testing is not yet simple enough to be made widely available, “But the most important thing is to identify new means of using the body’s resources to prevent coronary heart disease.”