We’ve all been told before that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health. Well, a new study has now suggested that drinking up to 105 grams of alcohol a week — the same as just under six pints of mid-strength beer or a bit more than a bottle of wine — could be associated with a decreased risk of having a heart attack, stroke or angina.
A team of researchers from the University College London in the United Kingdom found people with heart disease who drank up to 15 grams of booze a day — around half a pint or half a glass of wine — had a lower risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, angina or death, compared with those who didn’t drink. They also found that those who drank more than 62 grams of alcohol per day — about three glasses of wine or three pints of beer — did not have an increased risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke, angina or death, compared with those who didn’t drink alcohol.
While drinking up to 15 grams of alcohol per day was associated with lower risks of heart attack, stroke, angina or death, the researchers found those with the lowest risk drank between six and eight grams of alcohol per day — equivalent of less than one standard drink. Those who drank six grams of alcohol per day had a 50 per cent lower risk of recurrent heart attack, angina or stroke than those who didn’t drink. And those who drank eight grams per day had a 27 per cent lower risk of death due to heart attack, stroke or angina. Those who drank seven grams per day had a 21 per cent lower risk of death due to any cause, compared with those who didn’t drink. The findings were published in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
Chengyi Ding, the corresponding author, said that the new findings suggest that people with cardiovascular disease (CVD) may not need to stop drinking in order to prevent additional heart attacks, strokes or angina, “but that they may wish to consider lowering their weekly alcohol intake”. “As alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing other illnesses, those with CVD who do not drink should not be encouraged to take up drinking,” Ding said.
In December 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) set new guidelines and made recommendations for low-risk drinking levels. Created in 2009, the previous guidelines needed updating, particularly due to new research that found strong links between alcohol and cancer. The new rules say we should focus on no more than 10 standard drinks a week with a maximum of four on any one day. A ‘standard drink’ contains 10 grams of pure alcohol, which roughly equates to 285ml of full-strength beer, a can of mid-strength beer, 100ml of wine, or a single shot of spirits.