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14-03-2012 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Moderate drinking, maintaining healthy weight improves HDL cholesterol


Free abstract

MedWire News: Men who consume moderate amounts of alcohol and maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) could safely raise their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, especially if they are under 68 years of age, report researchers.

They caution, however, that the benefit of advising patients to maintain moderate alcohol consumption "must be weighed against the risks of alcohol before this strategy can be safely accepted in the clinical setting."

Catherine Rahilly-Tierney (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and colleagues investigated the relationship between changes in lifestyle habits, including alcohol consumption, BMI, and smoking, and changes in HDL cholesterol in nearly 1500 men (aged 21-81 years) who had a minimum of two HDL cholesterol measurements available over a 14.3-year period.

Analysis revealed that maintaining a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or less, maintaining a daily alcohol intake of two or more drinks, and increasing from less than two drinks per day to more than two were associated with significant 0.71, 0.86, and 2.53 mg/dL (0.02, 0.02, 0.07 mmol/L) 3-year increases in HDL cholesterol, respectively.

In analyses stratified by age, these lifestyle changes were significantly associated with 3-year HDL cholesterol change only in participants younger than 68 years. Statin use in those aged older than 68 years was associated with a significant 3-year increase in HDL cholesterol (1.23 mg/dL [0.03 mmol/L]).

Smoking showed no significant association with HDL cholesterol change.

"Our study suggests that specific lifestyle recommendations could safely raise HDL cholesterol levels, especially in younger patients," remark Rahilly-Tierney and team in Clinical Cardiology.

However, "there may be residual confounders, such as dietary factors, for which we did not account, that may have biased our results." In addition, "because of the binary nature of the alcohol consumption variable… we were unable to specify further how much alcohol intake was associated with the 3-year increases or decreases in HDL cholesterol that we observed."

They conclude that future research might address the benefit-risk balance of moderate alcohol consumption by examining cardiovascular risk in prospective cohorts in which alcohol intake is variable.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Nikki Withers