Bad news for people who previously believed that their moderate drinking was helping their heart health: A new study suggests even small amounts of alcohol might actually be hurting your heart in the long run.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal looked at 108,000 participants and found that even people who drank a modest amount of alcohol — say, one drink a day — had an increased risk of atrial fibrillation — otherwise known as developing an abnormal heartbeat, a condition that can lead to heart failure down the line.
And the increased risk is not so small: just one drink a day (compared to not drinking at all) was linked to a 16 percent increase of risk of fibrillation over 14 years. The risk of developing atrial fibrillation went up as the participants drank more — up to two drinks a day was associated with a 28 percent increased risk of developing the condition and for those who consumed more than four drinks a day, that risk went up by 47 percent, compared to those who don’t drink at all.
The research is significant for many reasons — most namely, because it could rule out once and for all that ‘one glass of red wine a day’ is good for your heart. In fact, it may be quite the opposite. While atrial fibrillation itself is not heart failure, it can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure if not treated through medication or surgery. So, that glass of wine a day might just be… giving you an increased risk of heart failure.
The main researcher, Professor Renate Schnabel, pulled no punches with their findings: “The regular consumption of alcohol, the ‘one glass of wine a day’ to protect the heart, as is often recommended for instance in the lay press, should probably no longer be suggested without balancing risks and possible benefits for all heart and blood vessel diseases, including atrial fibrillation.”
Indeed, the study throws into question whether or not a glass of wine a day is actually a net good for your heart. “The net clinical benefit of consuming low amounts of alcohol requires further study,” the researchers say. So, that one glass a day? Maybe don’t make a habit out of it.