Background: Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular death. Systemic inflammation as indicated by elevated levels of C-reactive protein might play a role in this relation.
Methods: To evaluate the association of alcohol consumption with C-reactive protein, we analyzed the findings of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination, a population-based survey representing the noninstitutionalized US population. Participants were aged 17 and older (n = 11,572). The main outcome measures studied were probability of C-reactive protein measurements being greater than 0.30 mg/dL (corresponding to the 75th percentile for the population) stratified by categories of alcohol consumption. Multivariate logistic regression was used to adjust for potential confounders.
Results: Among nondrinkers 31% had elevated C-reactive protein levels, compared with 21% of low-to-moderate-frequency drinkers and 18% of high-frequency drinkers. In a model adjusted for confounding variables, those who drank 1 to 10 times per month (OR 0.83, 95% CI 0.72-0.95), 11 to 30 times (OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.62-0.88), and more than 60 times per month (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.48-0.93) were less likely than nondrinkers to have elevated C-reactive protein levels.
Conclusions: Alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased probability of elevated C-reactive protein levels. This association supports an anti-inflammatory mechanism by which moderate alcohol use might protect against cardiovascular death.