Monday, May 7, 2007

Alcohol Consumption = Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Alcohol Consumption, Lipoprotein Particle Size, and Associated Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Findings from a study of healthy older adults suggest that alcohol’s effect on lipoprotein particle size may play a role in the relationship between alcohol intake and lower risk for coronary heart disease. In the study, alcohol consumption was associated with larger lipoprotein particle sizes and a lower prevalence of small LDL and HDL particles.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are sometimes called good cholesterol, or HDL-C. High levels of HDL-C seem to protect against cardiovascular diseases while low HDL cholesterol levels are associated with increased risk for heart disease. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are commonly referred to as bad cholesterol since high LDL levels are associated with cardiovascular disease.

Recently, researchers have begun to look at how the size and number of the individual HDL and LDL particles influence the risk of heart disease. High concentrations of small LDL particles are associated with earlier and more severe cardiovascular disease events and death, and small HDL particles seem to be less protective than larger ones.

In the study, average particle sizes of all three lipoproteins were positively associated with alcohol intake in a cross-sectional analysis of 1,850 participants of the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) aged 65 years and older and free of clinical cardiovascular disease.

People who consumed one or more drinks per week had the highest number of large LDL particles, while consumers of 7-13 drinks per week had the lowest number of small LDL particles. Alcohol consumption was strongly positively associated with large and medium sized HDL particles, but had an inverse relationship with concentrations of small HDL particles and small and medium sized Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL) particles (a third, potentially harmful type of particle).

This paper has been published online and will appear in the July 2007 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a publication of The Endocrine Society.

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