A glass of wine a day may not keep the doctor away

A recent study contradicted past findings that alcohol may have health benefits

· July 15, 2014, 9:38 pm   ·  Updated July 16, 2014, 11:14 pm

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Ali Harwood | DP

Researchers examined over 260,000 individuals of European descent and found that reducing alcohol consumption is beneficial for cardiovascular health.


Penn faculty contributed to a study that found that a glass of wine with dinner may not be as healthy as most people believe.

The study, which was published on July 11, in the British Medical Journal, was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine along with University College London and Penn.

Researchers analyzed 56 different epidemiological studies and examined over 260,000 individuals of European descent. They found that reducing alcohol consumption is actually beneficial for cardiovascular health.

The study looked specifically at a variation in the ADH1B allele, a variation which leads people to consume 17 percent less British units of alcohol per week. A British unit of alcohol is about eight grams of pure alcohol per drink, compared to 14 grams per drink in the United States.

The authors found that people with the distinctive allele were less likely to binge drink, had a smaller body mass index and had 10 percent less of a risk of coronary heart disease. From this information, they concluded in the abstract of the study that the “reduction of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, is beneficial for cardiovascular health.”

Co-lead author Michael Holmes, a research assistant professor in the department of Transplant Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine, hopes that people will change their drinking strategy after reading this study.

“It is important to take our understanding to the next level,” Holmes said. “For those of us who have one glass of wine or beer thinking that it is good for their heart, perhaps will change their approach because evidence now suggests otherwise.”

Some were hesitant to apply the assumption that this study made to the entire population. By taking a statistical approach rather than performing a randomized trial, this study only looks at people with this allele variation and many argue that these individuals might have healthier hearts for a different reason.

Yet, Holmes assures that they did look into other DNA markers for all possible explanations for this decrease in the risk for heart disease.

“There is a limitation in observational studies, that people might actually be healthier in other perspectives” Holmes conceded. “But with this study, we also looked across the DNA to see if there could be an alternative explanation and we didn’t find any evidence of that, so we are very confident in our results.”

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