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Reduction in risk of coronary heart disease from alcohol consumption

In a prospective, observational study of approximately 150,000 Norwegians, the investigators found that alcohol consumption was associated with a large decrease in the risk of death from coronary artery disease. For men, the fully adjusted hazard ratio for cardiac death was 0.52 (95% CI 0.39 - 0.69) when comparing subjects reporting more than one drink/week in comparison with those reporting never or rarely drinking; for women, it was 0.62 (0.3-.23). There was little change in the hazard ratio when HDL-cholesterol (HDL) was added to the model, suggesting that very little of the lower risk of heart disease was due to an increase in HDL from alcohol consumption.

Forum members considered this a well-done analysis. They were surprised at the very low amounts of alcohol intake reported by the subjects, with only 16% of males and about 8% of females reporting more than one drink/week. It is possible that the low levels of drinking, or perhaps over-adjustment in the multivariable analysis, led to the lack of effect of HDL. Most other studies have shown a much larger proportion of the effect of alcohol on heart disease risk to be associated with an increase in HDL.

Contact: R Curtis Ellison
Boston University Medical Center

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