The Japanese study, led by Ichiro Wakabayashi, also found that the older men, all in their 50's, who participated were more prone to the blood pressure-boosting effects of heavy drinking than younger men.
Study authors say that an increase in blood pressure due to heavy drinking apparently eliminates any benefits that may be gained from men having good levels of cholesterol.
While there are signs that drinking can be good for the heart and boost good cholesterol levels, "this emphasizes that alcohol is not for everyone," said Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who is familiar with the study findings.
"This really fits well with the observation that the risk of stroke which is more sensitive to blood pressure than heart attack is not really substantially lower in moderate drinkers," Mukamal said.
Wakabayashi, of the Hyogo College of Medicine in Japan, launched the study to explore whether high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is thought to protect the heart from disease, might play a role in how drinking affects blood pressure in men.
He looked at two groups of male workers, one 20 to 29 years old and the other 50 to 59, in all, 21,301 subjects. All had periodic health examinations.
Young drinkers with low HDL cholesterol levels were no more likely to have high blood pressure than were non-drinkers with similar cholesterol levels.
However, young men who drank heavily and had higher levels of HDL were more likely than non-drinkers were to have high blood pressure, suggesting that the "good" cholesterol did not stop the bad effects of drinking.
When looking at men of all ages, those with the lowest level of good cholesterol had the highest blood pressure in all three groups: nondrinkers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. However, high levels of good cholesterol HDL did not do as much for the heavy drinkers.
Among older men, blood pressure was "significantly higher" in both light and heavy drinkers, regardless of their HDL cholesterol levels, according to the study.
The findings appear in the September issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.