While few rigorous controlled trials have been conducted to determine alcohol's potential heart benefits, the media frequently portrays alcohol as 'heart healthy'. A new study by UCSF researchers has suggested that people who believe booze to be healthy, end up consuming it substantially more than their counterparts.
Using the Health eHeart study, the researchers found that people are divided on the cardiovascular benefits of alcohol consumption. Of the 5,582 study participants, 1,707 (30%) viewed alcohol as heart healthy, 2,157 (39%) viewed alcohol as unhealthy, and 1,718 (31%) were unsure. Of those reporting alcohol as heart healthy, 80% cited the lay press as a source of their knowledge. Further, those participants who perceived alcohol as heart healthy were older, more often women, had higher levels of education and income, and more often resided in the United States. Compared to the rest of the cohort, they consumed, on average, 47% more alcohol. A vast majority of the participants also believed that red wine exclusively is beneficial.
Smokers and people with heart failure were less likely to view alcohol favorably. Senior author Gregory Marcus said, "Alcohol is the most commonly consumed US drug. It was interesting that those who believe alcohol to be heart healthy actually drink more alcohol. Whether their belief causes this behavior, or merely justifies it, remains an interesting unknown."
The study is published in the American Journal of Cardiology.