Research from Yale University suggests that drinking in moderation might be a life-saver
June 12, 2023
Having one alcoholic drink a day may lower the risk of suffering a stress-related heart attack, a new study has suggested.
One glass a day for women – or up to two for men – has been found to suppress the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for stress.
The amygdala’s responses to triggers can fuel high levels of physiological stress, such as inflammation, which has been linked to cardiovascular disease.
In a study of 50,000 people in the United States, 754 of whom had brain scans, researchers at Yale University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that people who have one or two drinks a day had a lower risk of heart attacks.
They also had suppressed amygdala activity, which could reduce the risk of strokes or other cardiovascular events.
According to the study, this finding held even when the team accounted for other factors, such as socioeconomic status, age, health and genetics.
However, Dr Ahmed Tawakol, co-director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “We are not advocating the use of alcohol to reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes because of other concerning effects of alcohol on health.”
NHS guidelines advise both men and women to not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. A large glass of wine is around three units and a pint of lager is around two.
The study also found that more than 14 drinks a week increases the risk of heart attack as well as diminishing cognitive ability, while any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer.
It comes after a study earlier this year found that one or two drinks a day do not increase the risk of premature death.
Various studies have found links previously between moderate alcohol consumption and lower heart attack risk, but this study is the first to propose a causal mechanism.
Prof Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow – who was not involved in the project – has criticised the methodology.
“The issue is we know any amount of alcohol is associated with strokes and heart failure, and with increases in cancer and deaths from cardiovascular causes,” he said.
“So to concentrate only on one small aspect, even if true, gives the wrong impression.”
Prof Petra Meier, a professor of public health, also at the University of Glasgow, added that although the scientists had tried to account for all factors that could skew the findings, some had been left in.
“The study was able to include some of these factors but not comprehensively. For example, neither lifetime alcohol consumption history nor ethnicity were included,” she said.
The study has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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