May 26: Many wine lovers have a glass or two of wine daily as a source of relaxation which is good for immunity since high stress levels can lead to adverse cardiovascular effects, and a new study presented at the Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology this month has found promising results for moderate alcohol consumption that reduces stress-related brain signals responsible for heart disease, writes Subhash Arora
Moderate consumption of wine-one drink a day for women and two for men, has been associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease when compared with individuals who abstain from drinking or partake in excessive drinking, in several earlier Studies.
According to this study presented at the 70th Annual Scientific Session of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) on May 17 by the Lead Author Dr. Kenechukwu Mezue of the Massachusetts General Hospital, it is the first study indicating that moderate amount of alcohol may be heart protective, by reducing stress-related brain signals based on a subset of patients who underwent brain imaging.
Data was collected from the Mass General Brigham Biobank health care survey of over 53,000 participants of which 60% were women with an average age of 57 years. Alcohol intake was self-reported and classified as low (less than 1 glass/week), moderate (1-14 glasses /week) or high (more than 14 glasses/week). Major adverse cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke or related hospitalizations, were determined using diagnostic (ICD) codes.
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Hospital records were checked to see which subjects had experienced adverse cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. Of the total participants, nearly 8,000 had experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event during their lives.
Dr. Mezue says the results showed that those with no intake, low intake and high intake of alcohol showed higher levels of amygdala activity than subjects with moderate intake. Participants with moderate alcohol intake had a 20 percent lower chance of an adverse event compared to the low intake group. He also found that exercise and yoga correlated with lower levels of amygdala activity and adverse cardiovascular events.
The conclusion was that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels which in turn lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
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Dr. Mezue warns that these findings should not encourage alcohol use. "The current study suggests that moderate alcohol intake beneficially impacts the brain-heart connection. However, alcohol has several important side effects, including an increased risk of cancer, liver damage and dependence, so other interventions with better side effect profiles that beneficially impact brain-heart pathways are needed," he says.
In a related study by the same team, exercise has a similar effect on brain activity as well as on the incidence of cardiovascular diseases. The authors said exercise is associated with decreased stress-associated brain activity in a dose-dependent manner. While the connection between stress and heart disease is widely accepted, the authors said relatively little research has been done on how modifying stress may help protect heart health.
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"Previous studies have shown a robust association between heightened amygdalar activity and a higher risk of major adverse cardiovascular outcomes, such as heart attack, stroke or death. In the current study, path analyses showed that the link between moderate alcohol intake and lowered cardiovascular event risk is significantly mediated though reductions in amygdalar activity," says Mezue.
According to the ACC website, the study is limited due to the self-reporting of alcohol intake based on the average consumption of drinks per week. The data is also from a single center, and each participant in the imaging sub-study only received a single brain scan. Further study would be needed to show that the observed reductions in brain activity are the direct result of moderate alcohol intake through repeated brain scans and more detailed alcohol intake assessments over time.
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The survey data did not specify types of alcoholic beverages, but Dr. Mezue does say there has been consistent data on the positive effects of wine. He also says it's a limitation that the survey asked about alcoholic drinks per week, not per day. In future, the researchers hope to conduct studies that look for more specifics on drinking patterns and distinguish wine from beer and spirits.
In the meanwhile, delWine continues to recommend a glass of wine for women and two for men (125 mL with around 13% alcohol) 4-5 times a week. Please consult your doctor who can advise you based on your comorbidities. Please wear masks and maintain social distancing during these difficult Covid-19 times.
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