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17-01-2010 | Cardiology | Article

EPIC Spanish cohort study finds alcohol protects against CHD


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results of a Spanish suggest that alcohol intake is inversely associated with the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD).

The study found that men who drank at least moderate amounts of alcohol had around half the incidence of CHD compared with those who never drank alcohol. The authors say their research excludes the possibility of sicker, former drinkers obscuring comparisons between alcohol consumers and people who do not drink alcohol at all.

L Arriola (Basque Government, San Sebastian, Spain) and colleagues investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and CHD in 15,630 men and 25,808 women aged 29–69 years who were included in the Spanish cohort of EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer).

They established participants’ alcohol intake in the 12 months prior to recruitment using a validated dietary history questionnaire, calculating intake in g based on the ethanol content of specific alcoholic beverage types in standard glass volumes. Information on lifetime alcohol consumption at age 20, 30, 40, and 50 years was also recorded – people who reported at least low alcohol consumption at any of these earlier stages but not during the preceding 12 months were classed separately as former drinkers.

Over a median follow-up of 10 years, 609 coronary events occurred, 481 in men and 128 in women.

After adjusting for center, smoking status, height and education level, and age, the hazard ratios (HRs) for CHD among men who formerly drank alcohol and those with low (<5 g/day), moderate (5–30 g/day), high (30–90 g/day), and very high (>90 g/day) alcohol intake were 0.90, 0.65, 0.49, 0.46, and 0.50, respectively, compared with men who never drank alcohol. The reductions in risk reached statistical significance at moderate and higher intakes of alcohol.

A similar pattern was seen in women but none of the relative risk reductions was significant, which the authors suggest was “probably due to the low number of CHD events in this group.”

The researchers also report that the associations were similar for all types of alcoholic beverage consumed.

Arriola and team point out that participants in the former-drinkers category were slightly older and more often reported hypertension, diabetes, and antithrombotic and cardiovascular medication use. The inverse association found across all categories of alcohol intake is likely to due to removing this “abstainer error” from our analysis, they comment.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price

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