Genetic study questions wine’s cardiovascular benefits

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A glass of wine may not be as heart-smart as previously believed. An international research team looking at a gene variant that reduced alcohol consumption found that in those people who consumed less alcohol, markers for cardiovascular disease were also reduced.

Published online July 10 in BMJ, the analysis assessed 56 studies where participants had been found to have the ADH1B rs1229984 A-allele. This genotype was not associated with reduced risks for cardiovascular disease itself; it instead, controls metabolism and consumption of alcohol. Those with the rs1229984 A-allele show reduced interest in alcohol consumption and lower risk of alcoholism.

In those carrying this genetic marker, researchers found lower inflammatory biomarkers, blood pressure and cholesterol, bringing the protective nature of alcohol in heart disease into question.

Michael V. Holmes, MD, PhD, of the University College London in the U.K., and colleagues noted that the rs1229984 A-allele group consumed 17.2 percent fewer units of alcohol per week. The group also had 5.2 percent lower levels of interleukin-6. C reactive protein levels were 3.4 percent less in this group and odds of hypertension in the rs1229984 A-allele group were 0.94 on average.

Holmes et al noted, however, that the rs1229984 A-allele group had higher triglycerides on average, but they were unable to associate that finding with either the amount of alcohol consumed or the activity of the gene.

When drinkers were subdivided into light, moderate and heavy, they noticed no difference between the rs1229984 A-allele carriers and noncarriers in risk. They were unable to associate rs1229984 A-allele with stroke risks, coagulation markers or markers for diabetes.

Further studies are needed to confirm whether rs1229984 A-allele itself or level of alcohol consumption had the greatest benefit. The research team recommended reduction in alcohol consumption, regardless of genetic profile or number of drinks consumed per week for cardiovascular health.