Drinking within NHS guidelines may still increase risk of heart disease, study claims

Researcher says suggestion of health benefits from low to moderate alcohol consumption is ‘biggest myth since we were told smoking was good for us’

Olivia Petter
Friday 28 January 2022 06:00

Drinking within the NHS guidelines may still increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, a new study has claimed.

According to new research published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, drinking 14 units of alcohol — the maximum amount recommended by the NHS — which is the equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine, per week could still lead to various health risks.

The study involved looking at 333,259 people aged 40 to 69 who drank alcohol and hospital admissions related to cardiovascular events and cerebrovascular disease.

For the study, the cardiovascular events included heart attack, heart failure and heart muscle disease.

Over the course of seven years, participants were asked about their overall weekly alcohol intake and how much they enjoyed specific drinks, including beer, wine and spirits.

The data revealed that for those consuming fewer than 14 units of alcohol per week, every additional 1.5 pint of beer at 4 per cent strength was linked with a 23 per cent increased risk of suffering a cardiovascular event.

Dr Rudolph Schutte, associate professor at Anglia Ruskin University, who led the study, said: “Among drinkers of beer, cider and spirits in particular, even those consuming under 14 units a week had an increased risk of ending up in hospital through a cardiovascular event involving the heart or the blood vessels.

“While we hear much about wine drinkers having lower risk of coronary artery disease, our data shows their risk of other cardiovascular events is not reduced.

“Biases embedded in epidemiological evidence mask or underestimate the hazards associated with alcohol consumption.

“When these biases are accounted for, the adverse effects of even low-level alcohol consumption are revealed.”

Dr Schutte added that the suggestion of health benefits “from low to moderate alcohol consumption is the biggest myth since we were told smoking was good for us”.

He suggested that the guidelines of 14 units each week be reduced.

“My hope is it will be like smoking, with health warnings,” he said.

Additional reporting from PA

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