The link between alcohol and health has been mapped for years. And now scientists have also discovered that one small glass of alcohol a day increases the risk of cardiac arrhythmias by 16 percent. More specifically, it concerns a greater risk of atrial fibrilations.
Some 108,000 people between the ages of 24 and 97 have been followed by scientists for fourteen years. They kept a close eye on how much alcohol they drank every day and what the effects were on the heart. The researchers mainly focused on atrial fibrilations, a type of heart rhythm disorder.
The results of the study were a bit ambiguous. For example, the suspicions have been confirmed that a little bit of alcohol has a positive effect on heart failure. That is, the heart is beating too slowly. The graph showing the risk of this has a J shape. Whoever drinks a glass now and then has less chance of heart failure.
But that positive effect does not apply to people with atrial fibrilations. Whoever drinks one glass a day has a negative effect on the chance of these problems. The scientists speak in the European Heart Journal about a dose of 20 grams of ethanol. That equates to a 33 centilitre beer, a 12 centilitre glass of wine or 4 centilitres of strong drink.
Consuming one serving of 20 grams of ethanol every day increases the risk of atrial fibrilations by 16 percent. Between one and two drinks a day, that chance increases by 28 percent. And those who drink more than four glasses of alcohol a day have a 47 percent higher risk of atrial fibrilations. These cause dizziness and palpitations and increase the risk of strokes.
Weighing the pros and cons
The researchers emphasize that the difference with one glass of alcohol per day is not that great. But people must be aware of that difference. “People should consider the risks and the benefits (the positive effects on heart failure, ed.) against each other, ”said Professor Renate Schnabel. She is a cardiologist and one of the authors of the study.