Alcohol intake and risk of coronary heart disease in younger, middle-aged, and older adults

Ulla A. Hvidtfeldt, Janne S. Tolstrup, Marianne U. Jakobsen, Berit L. Heitmann, Morten Grønbæk, Eilis O'Reilly, Katarina Bälter, Uri Goldbourt, Göran Hallmans, Paul Knekt, Simin Liu, Mark Pereira, Pirjo Pietinen, Donna Spiegelman, June Stevens, Jarmo Virtamo, Walter C. Willett, Eric B. Rimm, Alberto Ascherio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND-: Light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. This protective effect of alcohol, however, may be confined to middle-aged or older individuals. Coronary heart disease incidence is low in men <40 years of age and in women <50 years of age; for this reason, study cohorts rarely have the power to investigate the effects of alcohol on coronary heart disease risk in younger adults. This study examined whether the beneficial effect of alcohol on coronary heart disease depends on age. METHODS AND RESULTS-: In this pooled analysis of 8 prospective studies from North America and Europe including 192 067 women and 74 919 men free of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers at baseline, average daily alcohol intake was assessed at baseline with a food frequency or diet history questionnaire. An inverse association between alcohol and risk of coronary heart disease was observed in all age groups; hazard ratios among moderately drinking men (5.0 to 29.9 g/d) 39 to 50, 50 to 59, and ≥ 60 years of age were 0.58 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.36 to 0.93), 0.72 (95% CI, 0.60 to 0.86), and 0.85 (95% CI, 0.75 to 0.97) compared with abstainers. However, the analyses indicated a smaller incidence rate difference between abstainers and moderate consumers in younger adults (incidence rate difference, 45 per 100 000; 90% CI, 8 to 84) than in middle-aged (incidence rate difference, 64 per 100 000; 90% CI, 24 to 102) and older (incidence rate difference, 89 per 100 000; 90% CI, 44 to 140) adults. Similar results were observed in women. CONCLUSION-: Alcohol is also associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease in younger adults; however, the absolute risk was small compared with middle-aged and older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1589-1597
Number of pages9
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Age groups
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Coronary disease
  • Epidemiology


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