Moderate drinkers—men who drink around 12 glasses of alcohol a week and women who drink eight—are 30 per cent less likely than ex-drinkers to develop heart disease or suffer a fatal heart attack. The protective effect increases to nearly 50 per cent compared to non-drinkers.
Female teetotallers and recent abstainers are at special risk compared to moderate drinkers, and have double the risk of developing heart disease, say researchers from University College London, who think alcohol increases estrogen levels, which promotes heart health.
Alcohol seems to have some protective effect for both sexes because moderate drinkers who had periods when they didn't drink at all were also more likely to develop heart disease compared to those who always drank moderately. This was especially the case among the over-55s, the researchers found.
The researchers analysed the health and drinking habits of 35,132 people over 10 years, during which time nearly 5 per cent suffered a heart attack or developed heart disease.