Some observational studies demonstrate a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) with light-moderate alcohol intake compared with abstinence or heavy consumption. However, confounding lifestyle factors may explain these patterns. Researchers explored the association between alcohol consumption and CVD using a large genetic databank with 371,463 participants that included blood samples and lifestyle information. They constructed a “genetic instrument” based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with an alcohol use disorder diagnosis and AUDIT-C answers, but independent of other lifestyle factors.* Researchers measured the association between these SNPs and adverse cardiovascular outcomes to minimize confounding and establish a causal relationship.
* Defined as: smoking, body mass index, physical activity, vegetable intake, red meat intake, overall health rating, C-reactive protein level, and total cholesterol level.
Comments: Using a novel method to reduce confounding, this study supports a causal and exponential association between alcohol intake and CVD, beginning at low levels of consumption. These findings suggest that the apparent cardioprotective effects of moderate alcohol consumption found in some observational studies are due to confounding lifestyle factors. Moreover, this study supports the theory that no amount of alcohol is protective against CVD.
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