Even moderate amounts of wine and liquor may be a risk factor for atrial fibrillation, although beer didn’t have the same association, a study found.
Researchers in Sweden studied nearly 80,000 middle- and late-age adults who completed a questionnaire about food and alcohol consumption in 1997 and were then followed via national registries for 12 years.
Results appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
There were more than 7,200 cases of atrial fibrillation among nearly 860,000 person-years of follow-up. The study found an association not only with heavy drinking of more than 3 drinks per day, as well as binge drinking 5 or more drinks at a time, but also with moderate consumption of 1 to 3 drinks per day.
Compared with nondrinkers, the relative risks of atrial fibrillation were 1.01 (95% CI, 0.94 to 1.09) for 1 to 6 drinks/week, 1.07 (95% CI, 0.98 to 1.17) for 7 to 14 drinks/week, 1.14 (95% CI, 1.01 to 1.28) for 15 to 21 drinks/week, and 1.39 (95% CI, 1.22 to 1.58) for >21 drinks/week. Results were similar after excluding binge drinkers.
In a meta-analysis of 7 prospective studies that included more than 12,500 cases of atrial fibrillation, the relative risks were 1.08 (95% CI, 1.06 to 1.10) for 1 drink/day, 1.17 (95% CI, 1.13 to 1.21) for 2 drinks/day, 1.26 (95% CI, 1.19 to 1.33) for 3 drinks/ day, 1.36 (95% CI, 1.27 to 1.46) for 4 drinks/day, and 1.47 (95% CI, 1.34 to 1.61) for 5 drinks/day, compared with nondrinkers. The meta-analysis, which didn’t differentiate between types of alcohol, showed the risk for atrial fibrillation increased 8% with each additional drink per day.
While many studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol consumption reduce ischemic heart disease and stroke, it is important to balance these benefits against the potential risk of developing atrial fibrillation, the researchers noted.
While the association between moderate wine and liquor consumption and increased atrial fibrillation risk was strong, the Swedish study did not find such a relationship with atrial fibrillation and moderate beer consumption or even binge drinking of beer. It is possible that beer is consumed more regularly during the week, whereas wine and liquor is more often consumed during weekends only, which might spread out the adverse effects of alcohol on atrial fibrillation risk.
An accompanying editorial endorsed the study’s findings, but concluded, “Because the AF risk related to consuming low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol (i.e., <2 drinks per day) is small, these data in isolation should not discourage individuals from safely consuming and enjoying such modest amounts of alcohol.”
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