Background: Observational studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may lower risk of myocardial infarction (MI) and coronary heart disease (CHD); yet, evidence for this comes almost entirely from Western populations.
Methods: We conducted a prospective cohort study in 64,597 Chinese men aged > or = 40 years who were free of clinical CHD at baseline examination. Data on frequency and type of alcohol consumed were collected at the baseline examination in 1991 using a standard protocol. Follow-up evaluation was conducted in 1999-2000, with a response rate of 94%.
Results: Over 494,084 person-years of follow-up, we documented 725 (361 fatal) incident MI and 976 (588 fatal) incident CHD events. After stratification by province to account for multi-stage sampling design and adjustment for age, education, physical activity, cigarette smoking, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, urbanization (urban vs. rural), geographic variation (north vs. south) and history of diabetes, relative risk (95% confidence interval) of MI was 0.93 (0.70-1.24) for participants consuming 1 to 6 drinks/week, 0.66 (0.54-0.82) for those consuming 7 to 34 drinks/week, and 0.58 (0.41-0.81) for those consuming > or = 35 drinks/week (p for linear trend <0.0001) compared to non-drinkers. The corresponding relative risks for CHD events were 0.99 (0.77-1.27), 0.67 (0.56-0.81), and 0.58 (0.44-0.78), respectively (p for linear trend <0.0001).
Conclusion: Alcohol consumption may be related to lower risk of MI and CHD in middle-aged and older Chinese men. However, heavy alcohol consumption may lead to increased mortality from other causes; therefore, the implications of these findings should be interpreted cautiously.