Purpose of review: Previous research suggests that low-moderate alcohol consumption may have cardioprotective effects, while heavy or binge-pattern drinking is harmful. New evidence and research methodology may inform safe thresholds of alcohol use. This review examines recent evidence regarding alcohol's effect on cardiovascular disease, with a special consideration of pattern, drink type, and total quantity.
Recent findings: New epidemiologic research confirms the potential harmful cardiovascular effects of heavy episodic alcohol use and does not support the previous observation that low-moderate alcohol use protects against stroke. Alcohol consumption also appears to have a continuous positive relationship with the risk of atrial fibrillation. In addition, Mendelian randomization analyses suggest that alcohol may have a direct causal role in adverse cardiovascular effects. Recent studies have confirmed that heavy alcohol use (>14 drinks per week in women and >21 drinks per week in men) and heavy episodic drinking are associated with an increased risk of mortality. New research raises concerns that even low-moderate alcohol use may not offer cardio- or cerebrovascular protection. Drinking ≥3 drinks per day on a regular basis or ≥5 drinks in any one episode should be discouraged.
Keywords: Alcohol; Alcohol consumption; CVD; Cardiovascular disease; Drinking.