Alcohol and Cholesterol Levels
You’re probably tired of reading news about nonsense people that caused accidents while under the influence of alcohol and that drinking too much is harmful to health. However, did you know that, apart from its negative effects, this compound has some health benefits? Yes, surprisingly! One of these benefits is the cardioprotective effect of “moderate” alcohol consumption. It has been suggested that some of these protective effects could be due to the action of alcohol on lipoprotein metabolism, mainly by the elevation of HDL cholesterol know as the “good” cholesterol.
HDL and LDL
In our previous articles, we discussed the two main types of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. To sum up, both are necessary to stay healthy, but when we have too much LDL or too little HDL, we have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. This includes life-threatening problems such as heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Effect of alcohol on HDL
According to numerous scientific studies, drinking alcohol moderately increase levels of HDL. However, alcoholism (heavy drinking) may produce liver disease with impaired function, leading to decreased plasma levels of HDL. The key is thus moderation. For a woman, it means one drink a day, while a man can have up to two. But what constitutes a drink? When it comes to liquor, a drink is defined as 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer. Not seem to matter what type of alcohol consumed (eg, wine, beer or liquor), but rather how much. This is because these findings do not depend on other ingredients in the alcohol, such as antioxidants, nor other lifestyles, such as diet, weight or smoking materials. This information is valid for men and women regardless of race or ethnicity.
Relationship between alcohol and LDL
This relationship is unclear as the results vary. In some people drinking alcohol produces a decrease of LDL but in other a daily intake will not significantly alter the level of LDL cholesterol. According to a team of researchers, these conflicting results can be explained by certain genetic variations. In their study, they found that the relationship between LDL and alcohol depends on the variant of the gene for apolipoprotein E (APOE). This gene, of which there are three alleles (E2, E3, and E4), controls the production of a molecule that transports cholesterol. Some allelic variants have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Humans have two alleles of the gene, one from each parent. The researchers found that male drinkers carriers of the E2 allele, have lower levels of LDL even lower than abstainers, regardless of factors such as age, weight, consumption of snuff or ingestion of calories and fat. Instead, male drinkers with the E4 variant had the highest LDL levels. In this group, the level of LDL was also higher than teetotalers, independently of other factors that tend to influence cholesterol. In women, alcohol had no appreciable effect on the level of LDL. This group showed significantly lower values in both drinkers and abstinent and carriers in the E2 or E4 variant. However, it is unclear what the difference is between the sexes.
Although alcohol consumption has been shown to improve cholesterol, other health risks increase with heavy drinking. These include but are not limited to certain cancers, liver disease, and pancreatitis. If you are pregnant, do not drink, as it may harm the fetus. If you have been advised not to drink because of addiction or other medical conditions, alternative strategies for healthy cholesterol should be considered. So before adding alcohol to your diet, consulting a health care professional is advised.