A new study reveals it’s time to rethink the ‚just one drink‘ mindset because even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to higher blood pressure.
You exchange a knowing look with your friend across the table. „How about just one glass of wine?“ you ask. As the adage ‚everything in moderation‘ runs through your mind, you wait for that gentle nod of confirmation.
The study suggests that even one drink per day can increase systolic blood pressure (SBP) — the force exerted when your heart pumps blood — even in people with no history of hypertension.
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Previous research has demonstrated the link between alcohol and elevated blood pressure. However, the discovery that even a single daily drink can have such a significant impact on blood pressure surprised the study’s researchers.
According to Marco Vinceti, senior author of the study, „We didn’t expect to find that an already-low level of alcohol consumption could be linked to elevated blood pressure changes over time, even when compared to no consumption.“
The research was extensive. It included 19,548 participants and a median follow-up period of five years, with a range of four to 12 years. And for those reaching for the calculator to determine how many of their favourite drinks they can continue to enjoy (we see you), a word of caution.
The study focused on the grammes of alcohol consumed rather than the number of beverages consumed. Another study co-author, Tommaso Filippini, explained the decision as „to avoid the bias that might arise from the different amount of alcohol contained in ‘standard drinks’ across countries and/or types of beverages.“
The study’s findings appear to highlight a clear and unbroken link: the more alcohol consumed, the higher the SBP reading. And it’s an association that doesn’t appear to have a starting or ending point. It’s an ongoing upward trend that appears regardless of the amount consumed.
Breaking down the findings even further, the study suggests a near-linear relationship between baseline alcohol intake and subsequent changes in SBP in both genders. So, regardless of how you identify, alcohol affects your blood pressure dynamics.
„Our study found no positive effects in adults who consumed a low level of alcohol compared to those who abstained completely,“ Vinceti explained. So, those hoping that the ‚one-drink‘ theory might hold some health benefits may need to reconsider.
The research suggests that individuals experiencing a slight upward trend in their blood pressure — even if it’s not officially categorised as ‚high‘ — could benefit most from reducing their alcohol consumption or even completely abstaining.
The research did hint that our genes might grant us a slight pass regarding alcohol’s impact on our health. Specifically, the study observed a varied relationship between alcohol consumption and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) — the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats — depending on sex and geographic location.
“Alcohol consumption was positively associated with blood pressure changes in both Asians and North Americans, apart from DBP in the latter group,” explained Vinceti. This suggests that genetic and environmental factors might interact with alcohol’s effects in complex ways.
Vinceti further advised that those wishing to maintain healthy blood pressure levels should consider limiting or even completely avoiding alcohol. “Alcohol is certainly not the sole driver of increases in blood pressure; however, our findings confirm it contributes in a meaningful way.”