Alcohol and Heart Health: What’s the Real Deal?


A recent study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that about 1/3 of people surveyed believe that alcohol is heart healthy, despite a lack of published research to support such a claim.

The researchers from the University of California San Francisco surveyed over 5,000 people and found that:

  • 30% of respondents viewed alcohol as heart healthy
  • 39% of respondents viewed alcohol as unhealthy
  • 31% of respondents were unsure about the health effects of alcohol

The study authors also found that those who view alcohol as being heart healthy tend to be heavier drinkers. They cite the lack of rigorous controlled trials about the effects of alcohol as problematic when compared to the lay press’s portrayal of alcohol being “heart healthy”.

Like many individual components of the diet, alcohol in moderation may be beneficial to health – although, like anything, too much of a good thing is not a good thing! Moderate alcohol intake (defined as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men) is thought to slightly elevate HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

To be fair, most dietitians and health experts would agree that it’s not worth taking up drinking alcohol if you don’t already drink in order to get a few point bump in your HDL levels. Engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise is for many people, a more feasible approach to elevating HDL cholesterol.

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