A new study has revealed that light to moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a long-term reduction in the brain’s stress activity, ultimately lowering the risk of heart disease, New York Post reported. Researchers found that one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men is linked with reductions in stress signaling in the brain.
The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Cardiologist Ahmed Tawakol, the lead author of the study, said, “We are not advocating the use of alcohol to reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes because of other concerning effects of alcohol on health. We wanted to understand how light to moderate drinking reduces cardiovascular disease, as demonstrated by multiple other studies.”
For the study, Mr. Tawakol and his team analysed the drinking habits of over 50,000 people who were enrolled in the Mass General Brigham Biobank. They found that those who had one to 14 drinks per week were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who had less than one drink per week.
Further, they also studied 754 people who have previously undergone brain imaging to determine the effects of alcohol consumption on resting, stress-related neural network activity.
The brain imaging showed reduced stress signaling in the amygdala, the brain region associated with stress responses, in individuals who were light to moderate drinkers compared to those who abstained from alcohol or who drank little.
”We found that the brain changes in light to moderate drinkers explained a significant portion of the protective cardiac effects,” Mr. Tawakol said in a press release.
Researchers also found that those with a history of anxiety had nearly double the cardiac-protective effect with light to moderate drinking.
”Alcohol was twice as effective at reducing major adverse cardiac events among individuals with stress and anxiety. It was about 20% in most patients but 40% relative risk reduction among individuals with prior anxiety, ” the cardiologist added.
However, they also warned that any amount of drinking raised the risk of cancer, and finding alternative methods to reduce stress is important. Higher alcohol consumption, more than 14 drinks a week, was linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and an overall decrease in brain activity.
”At the same amount of alcohol that was ‘protective’ of cardiovascular disease, we saw a similar increased risk of cancer, so we’re not suggesting that there is an attractive quantity of alcohol for improving health,” Mr. Tawakol said.