Women who drink a glass of wine every day have healthier hearts than those who do not touch a drop, a study suggests.
Researchers found women who regularly consume up to 14 units of alcohol steadily over the course of a week had a lower risk of heart disease than teetotallers or binge-drinkers.
Yet men who drink 21 units during each week – about nine pints of beer – had hearts no healthier than those who did not consume any alcohol.
The highest heart disease risk was in men and women with ‘unstable’ drinking habits over a ten-year period, the British research published in BMC Medicine found.
But women who did not drink were nearly 50 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than those who indulged within UK recommended guidelines.
Researchers found women who regularly consume up to 14 units of alcohol steadily over the course of a week had a lower risk of heart disease than teetotallers or binge-drinkers
Those who drank in moderation ‘inconsistently’ were 18 per cent more likely to develop the disease than women who had a regular tipple every day or two. But experts warned that while alcohol may decrease heart disease risks, people should not drink to boost their health as this would increase their risk of other diseases.
Data from national studies in the UK and France was used in the study, as well as those in London, Norfolk and western Scotland.
Alcohol is thought to help the heart by thinning the blood, reducing the likelihood it will clot. But Dr Dara O’Neill, the corresponding author from University College London, said the gender gap could perhaps be explained by ‘some evidence that drinking alcohol may increase oestrogen levels in women, and oestrogen levels are thought to be linked to lower coronary heart disease risk’.
But he said: ‘There are potentially a lot of factors at play and we plan to explore this further to ensure we get a more accurate and complete understanding.’
About 4.9 per cent of the 35,132 people in the study had developed coronary heart disease.
Moderate drinking was considered to be within the UK’s drinking guidelines at the time the data were collected – the equivalent of 21 units of alcohol a week for men and 14 units for women. But since 2016, the healthy limit for men has also dropped to 14 units.
Alcohol is thought to help the heart by thinning the blood, reducing the likelihood it will clot
Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: ‘This is an interesting report but it is nothing new and a much bigger recent study published in the Lancet has shown that whilst risk for myocardial infarction may well be lower with modest alcohol, risk for other complications of the heart and brain increase with even moderate drinking.’
And Ben Butler, from Drinkaware, said: ‘Regularly drinking too much can increase the risk of high blood pressure, one of the key risk factors for having a heart attack or stroke. Heavy drinking also weakens the heart muscle which means that the heart cannot pump blood as efficiently.’
Yesterday, television presenter Adrian Chiles, 51, urged people to track their alcohol intake after revealing he sometimes drank 80 or 100 units a week.
The BBC 5 live host admitted his drink intake was ‘horrifying’ and he was warned by his doctor his drink habit could prove fatal.