Alcohol Intake Linked to Slow Decline of HDL Cholesterol

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Alcohol consumption is associated with a decline in HDL cholesterol.
Alcohol consumption is associated with a decline in HDL cholesterol.

NEW ORLEANS — Alcohol consumption may slow the decline of HDL cholesterol in the body, with moderate alcohol consumption being associated with the slowest decline, according to research from the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016.

“Our goal [was] to test if there was association between baseline alcohol consumption and longitudinal change in lipids because previous studies which reported a positive dose-response relation between alcohol consumption and HDL concentrations in blood were cross-sectional or short-term studies and the potential long-term effect of alcohol on HDL is unknown yet,” Shue Huang, a PhD candidate from Pennsylvania State University in State College, told Endocrinology Advisor.

Huang and colleagues analyzed a group of 80,081 Chinese adults with a mean age of 49 years who had varying degrees of alcohol consumption, ranging from never drinking, past drinkers, and light, moderate, and heavy drinkers. In the study, a light female drinker was classified as having between 0 and 0.4 servings per day; a moderate female drinker had 0.5 to 1 serving of alcohol per day, while a heavy drinker had more than 1 serving per day. Men in the study were classified as light drinkers if they had between 0 and 0.9 servings per day, moderate if they had between 1 and 2 servings of alcohol per day, and heavy if they had more than 2 servings per day.

The patients' drinking habits were established via a baseline interview, and the researchers measured the change in HDL cholesterol in 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012.

The researchers found an inverted U-shaped association between HDL change and alcohol consumption, with light drinkers' HDL having a 0.013 mmol/L per-year slower decrease rate compared with participants who never drank (P <.0001). Moderate drinkers had a 0.017 mmol/L per-year slower decrease rate (P <.0001) compared with participants who never drank, while heavy drinkers had a 0.008 mmol/L per-year slower decrease rate (P <.0001), according to the study abstract. Past drinkers had a 0.012 mmol/L per-year slower decrease rate compared with participants who never drank (P <.0001).

“Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with the slowest increase in total cholesterol/HDL and triglyceride/HDL ratios among all groups,” the researchers wrote.

“The most noteworthy result is that the association is umbrella-shape, which means light to moderate alcohol intake slowed down the decline, but heavy alcohol intake almost eliminated this decline. This provided evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular diseases,” Huang said.

When looking at participants who drank hard liquor and beer, Huang and colleagues found hard liquor and change in HDL had the same association. However, they found participants with greater beer consumption had slower HDL decreases.

The researchers said 1 limitation of this study was that the effects were only seen in beer and hard liquor drinkers, as there were not enough wine drinkers to measure the effect of wine consumption and HDL cholesterol.

“More prospective studies with repeated HDL are needed to confirm our finding, and also more studies are needed to investigate the underlying mechanism because little is known now,” Huang said.

The researchers also noted that further study is necessary to see whether there is an association between consumption of alcohol and HDL in other populations.

Disclosures: The researchers report no financial disclosures.

Reference

  1. Huang S, Li J, Shearer GC, et al. Poster S2064. Longitudinal Study of Alcohol Consumption and High-Density Lipoprotein Concentrations: A Community-Based Study. Presented at: American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016; November 12-16, 2016; New Orleans, LA.
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