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Circulation. 1992 Mar;85(3):910-5.

Lipoproteins and blood pressure as biological pathways for effect of moderate alcohol consumption on coronary heart disease.

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  • 1Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of California San Diego 92093-0607.



Several epidemiological studies have shown light-to-moderate alcohol consumption to have a net protective effect on the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD).


Major components of this effect, both positive and negative, may be explored using models that include both alcohol and variables expected to mediate the observed alcohol effect. Such modeling in a cohort of men of Japanese descent followed in the Honolulu Heart Program indicates that about half of the observed protection against CHD afforded by moderate alcohol consumption is mediated by an increase in high density lipoprotein cholesterol. An additional 18% of this protection is attributable to a decrease in low density lipoprotein cholesterol, but it is counterbalanced by a 17% increase in risk due to increased systolic blood pressure. The explanation for the residual 50% benefit attributable to alcohol is unknown but may include interference with thrombosis. The results in this population replicate those in the Lipid Research Clinics cohort studied earlier with the same analytic technique.


The consistency of these findings across populations, along with the demonstration of reasonable biological pathways for this effect of alcohol, provides strong support for the hypothesis that light-to-moderate alcohol intake is protective against heart disease in men.

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