Alcohol heart benefits

Alcohol

Moderate consumption of alcohol holds some health benefits, such as countering hypertension and heart disease. However, this affect is noticeably significant among people with a certain variant in the CETP gene, a gene involved in regulating HDL cholesterol levels.

Some alcohol may be good for you, so drink responsibly and drink to your health! 

HDL-cholesterol is known as the "good cholesterol." It removes harmful LDL-cholesterol from blood vessels and reduce the risk for heart disease. Epidemiologic studies have shown that low levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C) are closely related to the development and progression of atherosclerosis as well as a higher incidence of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Every 1 mg/dl decrease in HDL-C causes a 2-4% increase in CAD risk. HDL levels lower than 40 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are considered low and unhealthy, while levels above 60 mg/dL supports healthy cardiovascular function. A difference of 20 mg/dl holds 40% to 80% additional risk for CAD.

 

Gene: CHOLESTERYL ESTER TRANSFER PROTEIN, PLASMA (CETP)
Genomic coordinates (GRCh38): 16:56,961,922-56,983,843


CETP facilitates the transfer of HDL cholesterol to other cholesterol forms, thus regulating the plasma HDL-C levels.


Alcohol intake affect CETP activity in a way that reduces cholesterol transformation from HDL. By that, alcohol increase serum HDL levels and promotes cardiovascular health. However, this affect is quite small in most people. 
 

A major gain by moderate consumption is seen only in homozygotes for the B2/B2 CETP variant:

 

 

Most people (figure, B) show no significant gain to heart health by drinking alcohol. B2/B2 individuals in contrast are up to 5-times less prone to chronic heart disease when drinking moderately.

 

Any kind of alcohol is associated with a positive affect on HDL levels, with moderate consumption.
Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. 1 drink corresponding to 14 g or 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol (ethanol),  which is typically found in:


12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol content)
8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).
 

It is worth noting that other than alcohol consumption, other environmental factors affect HDL levels, such as diet, obesity, physical activity and cigarette smoking. 

In addition, heritability plays a key role in cholesterol levels. Genetic polymorphism could account for up to 60% of the inter-individual variation in plasma HDL concentrations. Current scientific knowledge enables us to test your overall known genetic risk for HDL levels. The CETP test tells you how your HDL responds to alcohol. The full set of tests related to HDL levels is offered in our Cardiovascular module.

*Note that alcohol may have other effects on your health, such as drunkenness, risk of addiction, and detrimental interactions with drugs. Consult your doctor before changing your drinking habits.