Objective: To conduct a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of studies assessing the effect of alcohol consumption on multiple cardiovascular outcomes. Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Data sources: A search of Medline (1950 through September 2009) and Embase (1980 through September 2009) supplemented by manual searches of bibliographies and conference proceedings. Inclusion criteria: Prospective cohort studies on the association between alcohol consumption and overall mortality from cardiovascular disease, incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease, and incidence of and mortality from stroke. Studies reviewed: Of 4235 studies reviewed for eligibility, quality, and data extraction, 84 were included in the final analysis. Results: The pooled adjusted relative risks for alcohol drinkers relative to non-drinkers in random effects models for the outcomes of interest were 0.75 (95% confidence interval 0.70 to 0.80) for cardiovascular disease mortality (21 studies), 0.71 (0.66 to 0.77) for incident coronary heart disease (29 studies), 0.75 (0.68 to 0.81) for coronary heart disease mortality (31 studies), 0.98 (0.91 to 1.06) for incident stroke (17 studies), and 1.06 (0.91 to 1.23) for stroke mortality (10 studies). Dose-response analysis revealed that the lowest risk of coronary heart disease mortality occurred with 1-2 drinks a day, but for stroke mortality it occurred with ≤1 drink per day. Secondary analysis of mortality from all causes showed lower risk for drinkers compared with non-drinkers (relative risk 0.87 (0.83 to 0.92)). Conclusions: Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of multiple cardiovascular outcomes.
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