Cardiovascular System

Is the “J-Curve” Real?

  

1. J-curve - Lower risk for light to moderate drinkers compared to abstainers

For many decades, epidemiological studies have consistently shown that light-to-moderate  consumers of alcoholic beverages have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and a lower risk of death from all causes (including total cancer) compared with non-drinkers or those who drink heavily. It is not limited to alcohol-related causes of death, but instead captures all deaths combined (Brien et al 2011, Ronksley et al 2011, di Castelnuovo et al 2006, Roerecke et al 2012, Ferrari et al 2014, Jayasekara et al 2014, Xi et al 2017, Wood et al 2018, Colpani et al 2018).

  • Such a J-shaped relationship (J-curve) has been shown in many different populations and dozens of observational studies. In different degrees, it is also seen in men and women and with other types of alcoholic beverages.
  • Observational studies cannot prove causality but the observed association is considered biologically plausible (see below). However, there is a scientific debate at which level of consumption the nadir of this curve lies.

 

  • Such a J-shaped relationship (J-curve) has been shown in many different populations and dozens of observational studies. In different degrees, it is also seen in men and women and with other types of alcoholic beverages.
  • Observational studies cannot prove causality but the observed association is considered biologically plausible (see below). However, there is a scientific debate at which level of consumption the nadir of this curve lies.

 

2. Comparison to Smoking

WHO and other institutions have repeatedly declared the risks of alcohol consumption equivalent to smoking. However, no benefit of “moderate smoking” has ever been found.

WHO and other institutions have repeatedly declared the risks of alcohol consumption equivalent to smoking. However, no benefit of “moderate smoking” has ever been found.

 

De Gaetano et al, 2017, Alcohol and health – praise of the J-curve, J Am Coll Cardiology, vol 70, no 8

 

3. J-shape also for other diseases

In addition to CVD and total mortality, a J-shaped curve exists for the risk of other diseases, for example for type-2 diabetes and dementia. 

 

4. Correlation or cause?

Observational studies can only provide statistical associations and present absolute or relative risks of developing certain diseases and cannot be interpreted as a proof of a causal relationship. However, the associations described are biologically plausible: controlled experiments have proven the beneficial physiological effects of light to moderate drinking of wine/alcoholic beverages.

 

Biologically plausible: How does it work?

Effect of alcohol:

  • Improvement of cholesterol levels: „good“ HDL increases, „bad“ LDL decreases
  • Lowering of blood viscosity (blood becomes „thinner“)

Effect of phenolic, non-alcoholic compounds of wine:

  • Improvement of endothelial function
  • Antioxidant effect/scavenger of free radicals

 

5. Wine versus other alcoholic beverages

Light to moderate wine consumption may be more beneficial than consuming other alcoholic beverages. An increasing number of both animal experiments and human trials demonstrate that non-alcoholic substances (polyphenols) in wine provide additional protective effects against risk factors and diseases.

 

6. Influencing factors

Most epidemiological studies have only used the average amount of alcohol consumed (over a week or month) as the measure of exposure, however, other factors play an important role in the health outcome. i.e. Regular moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages had considerable health advantages compared to binge drinkers, even though they consumed on average the same amount.

  • Drinking pattern (moderate, regular vs. binge drinking)
  • Drinking with the meals
  • Alternate wine with water
  • The famous advice of Serge Renaud is: “You drink water, but you sip wine”.

 

7. Underreporting

An important problem of observational studies is “under-reporting” of alcohol intake. This subsequently affects the J-curve. When “under-reporters” are removed from the study analysis, the curve shifts to the right, which means that the lowest risk of moderate drinkers is actually related to a higher amount of alcohol intake and the increased risk starts at a higher dosage.

 

8. Moderate wine consumption within a healthy lifestyle

Light to moderate consumption of wine/alcoholic beverages should be considered only one component of lifestyle factors related to health. The most important aspects are:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a normal body weight (avoid becoming obese)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet (e.g., a Mediterranean-type diet)
  • Consume alcoholic beverages moderately and regularly with food, unless contraindicated

These lifestyle factors contribute not only to a longer life expectancy but also a longer life free of chronic diseases.

 

9. Sick-quitters

Earlier studies included ex-drinkers in the non-drinking reference/control group that may have artificially increased the risk of disease for “current abstainers”, thus, confounding the J-shaped curve and negating a protective relationship with moderate drinking. However, more recent studies have corrected this flaw and when including only lifetime abstainers in the non-drinking category, a similar J-shaped curve was found and disproved the so called “sick-quitters” hypothesis.

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The alcohol-hypertension relation has been well documented, but whether women have protective effect or race and type of beverage consumed affect the association remain unclear. To quantify the relation between total or beverage-specific alcohol consumption and incident hypertension by considering the effect of sex and race. METHODS AND RESULTS: Articles were identified in PubMed and Embase databases with no restriction on publication date. Pooled relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated by random effects models. Restricted cubic splines were used to model the dose-response association. This study involved 22 articles (31 studies) and included 414,477 participants. The hypertension risk was different among liquor, wine, and beer at 5.1-10 g/d of ethanol consumption (P-across subgroups…
BACKGROUND: Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with favorable cardiovascular health (CVH). However, the association between alcohol type and ideal CVH has not been well-established. We examined the relationship between alcohol type and ideal CVH as measured by the American Heart Association's seven CVH metrics. METHODS: We analyzed data from 6,389 men and women aged 45-84 years from a multi-ethnic cohort free of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol type (wine, beer and liquor) was categorized as never, former, 0 but drink other alcohol types, >0 but 2 drinks/day. A CVH score ranging from 0 to 14 points was created from the seven CVH metrics (Inadequate score, 0-8; average, 9-10; optimal, 11-14). We used multinomial logistic regression to examine the association between…
Although, three decades have pasted from the introduction of "French Paradox", is still an issue for debate. Epidemiology supports the J-shaped relationship between wine consumption and vascular events as well as cardiovascular mortality with a maximum protection at 21 g of alcohol consumption in the form of wine per day. Nevertheless, the aforementioned studies have used an observational design that raises concerns about potential confounding. Randomized clinical studies may provide data to end the controversy and in parallel with in vitro experiments to elucidate the mechanisms by which wine affects cardiovascular disease. In this concept, this review aims to address the presence of bioactive wine micro constituents, their potential mechanisms of action and also to summarize the cardio-protective effects of…
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BACKGROUND: Stroke is the most common cardiovascular disorder after heart disease and one of the major causes of death and disability. Mediterranean diet has proven to be an effective means to prevent cardiovascular diseases and may contribute to the prevention of stroke. This overview aims to analyze all reviews that examine the association between Mediterranean diet pattern and stroke. METHODS: We conducted a literature search on PubMed and Scopus databases, using the keywords "Mediterranean diet" and "Stroke". All studies were selected evaluating the association between the Mediterranean diet and the prevention of stroke and only systematic reviews, meta-analysis and narrative reviews were included. RESULT: 25 eligible articles were included (16 narrative reviews, 9 systematic reviews, 6 systematic reviews with meta-analyses).…
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