New research suggests that light to moderate alcohol consumption may lower the risk of heart disease by reducing stress signaling in the brain. As international media sources report, the study, conducted by investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital, aimed to understand the mechanism behind the cardiovascular benefits of light to moderate drinking without the detrimental effects. Lead author Ahmed Tawakol clarified that the study does not advocate using alcohol to prevent heart attacks or strokes due to the other concerning impacts on health.
The research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, analyzed data from 53,064 individuals, of whom 60% were women, enrolled in the Mass General Brigham biobank. The researchers found a decreased risk of cardiovascular events among light to moderate drinkers. They also examined a subset of 713 individuals who had undergone brain imaging, revealing that light to moderate alcohol consumption led to reduced stress signaling in the amygdala, a brain region associated with stress responses.
For every blessing, there's a burden
This study reveals that light to moderate alcohol consumption has long-term effects on the amygdala, reducing its activity and impacting the cardiovascular system. An alert amygdala triggers the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and inflammation. Chronic stress can lead to hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. While light to moderate drinking offers stronger protection for individuals with anxiety, any amount of alcohol increases the risk of cancer. The study concluded: "Given alcohol's potential health detriments, new interventions with similar effects on neural network activity are needed." This is in line with Professor Petra Meier's opinion from the University of Glasgow's public health department, who emphasized that the study can only establish associations and cannot provide conclusive evidence that alcohol was the direct cause of the observed reduction in brain stress among light drinkers.
WHO: no level of alcohol consumption is safe.
The study was published as calls for health warnings on labels grew louder. This study remains controversial, especially since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared in January 2023 that no level of alcohol consumption is safe, calling it a toxic, psychoactive, and dependence-producing substance. As reported by MEININGER'S INTERNATIONAL, Ireland is taking a unique approach, linking the labels to the Health Service Executive (HSE) website and implementing health warnings, coinciding with the upcoming labeling regulations in the EU.