Associations between alcohol consumption and cardio-metabolic risk factors in young adults

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Abstract

Introduction

The benefits of alcohol consumption for cardiovascular and metabolic health may have been overstated due to inappropriate comparisons with abstainers and inadequate control for confounding factors including physical activity and mental health. We examined alcohol consumption and cardio-metabolic health in a cohort of young Australian adults overcoming these limitations.

Methods

Cross-sectional data of a cohort of 2200 participants (age range 25–36 years) from the 2004-06 Childhood Determinants of Adult Health were used. Alcohol consumption was assessed from questionnaire and cardio-metabolic risk factors were measured in clinics. Linear and log binomial regression were used to examine total alcohol consumption (categories: none 0 g/day; light >0–10 g/day [reference]; moderate >10–20 g/day; heavy >20–30 g/day; very heavy >30 g/day) against dichotomous metabolic syndrome and its components: waist circumference, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose. Covariates included socio-demographics, smoking, diet, physical activity, fitness, depression and anxiety.

Results

Of the 2220 participants (48% males, mean (standard deviation) age 29.5 (2.5) years), most were classified in the ‘light drinking’ group (54.2%), less were in the ‘non-drinking’ (13.2%), ‘heavy’ (5.2%) or ‘very heavy’ (5.5%) drinking groups. Only moderate drinking was associated with a significantly lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome (prevalence ratio = 0.64, p < 0.05) compared with light drinking. Higher levels of alcohol consumption were associated with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (β = 0.05, ptrend < 0.001). Very heavy compared to light drinkers had higher systolic (β = 3.01 mm Hg, p < 0.01) and diastolic (β = 2.07 mm Hg, p < 0.05) blood pressure.

Conclusion

Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of MetS, and more favourable levels of lipids but not glucose or blood pressure even when compared to light consumption and with account for a range of confounding factors.

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