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Alcohol Affects Left, Right Heart Chambers Differently

FRIDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- The left and right ventricles of the heart have very different reactions to small amounts of alcohol, a new study finds.

Researchers in Italy examined 64 healthy volunteers in their 20s after they drank a small amount of red wine and an equal amount of fruit juice.

After drinking the wine, participants' left ventricular function decreased, according to the findings. The left ventricle receives oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium of the heart and pumps it into the aorta, or the main artery of the body, which supplies tissues with oxygen.

But in the right ventricle, the wine led to an increase in function. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs through the pulmonary arteries, so it can be refreshed with oxygen again before going to the left ventricle.

The two chambers of the heart "are like two different worlds," said corresponding author Matteo Cameli, a cardiologist at Italy's Cardiologia Universitaria of Siena, in a university news release.

"Little data exist regarding the acute effects of alcohol on the heart," Cameli said. "Previous studies have reported a reduction in [left ventricular] performance after an assumption of moderate or high doses of alcohol, but the effects of low doses are still unknown."

The possible toxic effects of low doses of alcohol on the heart are important given that light drinking is so common, he added.

The study's findings will be published in the October 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

More information

The American Heart Association provides more information on alcohol and heart disease.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: University of Siena, news release, July 15, 2011

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