Moderate alcohol consumption reduces cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women

February 22, 2002

Women's risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) rises after menopause due to unfavorable changes in lipid profiles, brought on by the loss of the protective effect of endogenous estrogens. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Bauer et al. compared serum lipid concentrations in a group of postmenopausal women after they had consumed moderate amounts of alcohol over 8 weeks, concluding that alcohol decreases CVD risk in this group by improving the levels of several different blood lipids. The 51 women who participated in the study averaged 60 years old, were all healthy, were not taking hormone replacement therapy, and had no personal or family history of alcohol abuse. In a random crossover design, all of the women completed 3 dietary periods of 8 weeks each, consuming a typical American diet that was prepared and served each day at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, MD. A control diet provided no alcohol, whereas a proportionate amount of energy in the other two diets was supplied by either 15 grams of alcohol per day (equivalent to 1 drink) or 30 grams (equivalent to 2 drinks). Baseline blood samples were collected at the beginning of the study and again during the eighth week of each of the diets.

Each of the alcohol-containing diets improved lipid profiles by reducing low- density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triacylglycerol levels, whereas the 2-drink diet increased high-density lipoprotein (HD) cholesterol levels. Women who began the study with the highest serum concentrations of LDL-cholesterol and triacylglycerols showed the greatest benefit. Considering the magnitude of lipid changes observed in the study, the authors project that consumption of 1 alcoholic drink per day could decrease CVD risk in postmenopausal women by 4-5%, and consuming 2 drinks per day could result in a 10-13% decrease in CVD risk.
Baer, David J et al. Moderate alcohol consumption lowers risk factors for cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women fed a controlled diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:593-9.

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