Recent Norwegian research has found that moderate drinking as part of a healthy lifestyle could actually do more good for your heart than avoiding alcohol altogether.
Imre Janszky, a professor of social medicine at NTNU in Norway, recently published two studies showing that individuals who drink lightly, but on a regular basis, have a reduced risk of heart failure and heart attack compared to those who never or rarely drink.
In a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, Janszky looked at 58,827 Norwegian participants and how much and how often they drank over nearly 12 years. As levels of drinking in Norway are generally much lower than in other European countries, perhaps unsurprisingly 41% of participants reported that they rarely or never drank alcohol.
However after taking into account the various risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, Janszky found that light drinking had a beneficial effect on heart health, and for each additional drink the risk of a heart attack decreased by 28%. He also found that frequency of drinking was important, and had a bigger effect on cardiovascular health than amount consumed.
In the other study, published in the International Journal of Cardiology, Janszky looked at 60,665 Norwegian participants and found that those who rarely or never drank alcohol, or who had an alcohol problem, had a higher risk of heart failure. Those who consumed a moderate amount of alcohol on a regular basis, had a lower risk of heart failure, with those who drank five or more times a month benefiting from a 21% lower risk compared to those who drank rarely or not at all, while those who drank between one and five times a month benefited from a 2% lower risk.
Together the studies showed that those who drank 3-5 times a week were 33% less likely to suffer heart failure than those who drank less often, or not at all.
Janszky's studies also found that wine, beer, and spirits all showed a beneficial effect.
However, Janszky does note not to indulge too much and stresses moderation is the key, "I'm not encouraging people to drink alcohol all the time. We've only been studying the heart, and it's important to emphasize that a little alcohol every day can be healthy for the heart. But that doesn't mean it's necessary to drink alcohol every day to have a healthy heart."
The team also suggest that further research would be useful as high alcohol consumption can increase the risk of other diseases.