No cardiovascular benefits of alcohol


Wahroonga, New South Wales

The verdict is in: there are no health benefits to drinking alcohol.

For a long time the supposed benefits of drinking have been promoted by the industry, the media and by some health professional. It is time to stop.

A European study of more than 260,000 individuals1 has found people who consumed lower amounts of alcohol or were non-drinkers had a more favourable cardiovascular profile and reduced risk of coronary heart disease. 

The findings of the study were published in the British Medical Journal on July 10. 

Alcohol is the fifth leading risk factor for death and disability worldwide2. Its link to liver disease, cancer and injury has been firmly established.

However, there has been significant debate as to whether or not light to moderate alcohol consumption reduced the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

Writing for the British Medical Journal on behalf of the team of researchers, Michael Holmes of University College, London, and Carolyn Dale of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the latest study “suggests that reduction of alcohol consumption, even for light to moderate drinkers, is beneficial for cardiovascular health”. 

“Our results therefore challenge the concept of a cardioprotective effect associated with light to moderate alcohol consumption reported in observational studies, and suggest that this effect may have been due to residual confounding or selection bias.”

Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders have applauded the findings. “The Adventist Church has been advocating total absence from alcohol for a long time,” said Dr Paul Rankin, associate director of Adventist Health for the South Pacific Division. “This research shows very clearly that alcohol is not beneficial, even for heart disease.”

Commenting on the study, Otago University (NZ) professor Doug Sellman said a definitive stance against alcohol consumption is long overdue.

“For a long time the supposed benefits of drinking have been promoted by the industry, the media and by some health professionals,” he said. “It is time to stop.”3

1. Holmes MV, Dale CE et al Association between alcohol and cardiovascular disease; Mendelian randomisation analysis based on individual participant data. BMJ 2014; 349

2. Lim SS, Vos T, Flaxman AD, Danaei G, Shibuya K, Adair-Rohani H, etal. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 2012;380:2224-60

3. Media Release  13/7/14 Alcohol Action New Zealand <>