Harvard Heart Letter

Rethinking alcohol use and heart disease

New research explores how genes may affect your drinking habits and heart health.

If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, perhaps you've toasted the notion that you're doing your heart a favor. For decades, news reports have heralded the heart-protecting effects of light to moderate drinking. (Moderate drinking means no more than one drink daily for women and two for men.)

In an effort to better understand alcohol's role in heart disease, researchers reviewed more than 50 studies that linked drinking habits and heart health in over 260,000 people. The report, published in The BMJ in July, looked at the effects of a gene called alcohol dehydrogenase 1B, or ADH1B, which affects how quickly people break down alcohol. ADH1B has several different variants, and everyone has two copies of the gene, one from each parent.

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