Alcohol & Heart Health: New study untangles the effects

When it comes to alcohol and heart health, the back and forth between findings can leave you feeling dizzy: One study concludes that drinking is good for your heart, but then another says it’s best to say no.

At least part of this back and forth comes from a central problem in many studies: The group of “nondrinkers” in any study is likely to include both people who have never consumed alcohol at all and people who used to drink but don’t anymore. And since at least some of those “former drinkers” likely gave up drinking because it caused health problems for them, a broad look at “nondrinkers” conflates many variables that should really be considered separately.

So, in an effort to clear up the confusion , researchers in the United Kingdom decided to take a more nuanced look at the effects of alcohol on heart health.

Their new study, published Wednesday (March 22) in The BMJ found that moderate drinking was linked to a lower risk of some, but notably not all heart conditions, compared with abstaining from alcohol. The research was led by Steven Bell, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in England. [ Heart of the Matter: 7 Things to Know About Your Ticker ]

In addition to including an array of heart conditions, the researchers made a point to distinguish between people who had never been drinkers and those who used to drink, but no longer do so.

In the study, the researchers analyzed electronic medical records of nearly 2 million people in the United Kingdom. When the study began, all of the participants were 30 years old or older, and none…

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