- New research found drinking one small glass of wine or beer a day could lead to heart problems down the line.
- The largest study on alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation (AFib) found people who consume one drink a day are 16% more likely to develop AFib.
- Those who develop AFib, an irregular heartbeat, have a higher risk of strokes and heart failure.
- The findings directly challenge the idea that alcohol consumption in moderation has preventative qualities like improving heart health.
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US health officials recommend men drink no more than two drinks a day and women drink no more than one drink a day to avoid the dangerous side effects of long-term binge drinking like heart disease, high blood pressure, and liver disease.
But new research suggests that even having one small drink a day may lead to long-term health consequences.
Read More: Some experts say to avoid heavy drinking before getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but you don’t have to cut out alcohol completely
A study published by the European Society of Cardiology analyzed data from 108,000 people in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Italy from 1982 to 2010. The results found people who drink 12 grams of ethanol a day – the equivalent of one small glass of wine or beer – had a 16% increase in their risk of atrial fibrillation over the next 14 years.
The risk only increased with more alcohol consumption, as those who drank two drinks a day had a 28% increase in risk and those who drank more than four a day went up to 47%.
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is when your heart beats irregularly and rapidly, which can increase a person’s risk for stroke and heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, 15% to 20% of strokes are caused by AFib.
According to researchers, this is the largest study ever done on the effects of alcohol on AFib.
While drinking four drinks or more a night, more commonly known as binge-drinking, is associated with a heightened risk of heart failure, researchers say the new findings challenge decades-old ideas about the preventative nature of alcohol in moderation.
The findings call into question the idea that ‘one glass of red wine a day’ is healthy
The idea that red wine helps prevent heart disease was popularized after scientists published a paper looking at drinking culture in France and heart health as a case study in 1980, endearingly called “The French Paradox.”
The theory has had a lasting effect on public perception of red wine, but cardiologists say red wine’s health benefits are overstated. Insider’s Kelly Burch previously reported the American Heart Association said drinking red wine does not lead to a healthy heart.
A limitation to the study was that it only included European adults ranging from 24 to 97 years old, so the data may not be generalizable to a global population.
However, according to Dr. Renate Schnabel, lead author of the study and cardiologist at the University Heart and Vascular Center in Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany, the findings directly challenge the French Paradox.
“These findings are important as the regular consumption of alcohol, the ‘one glass of wine a day’ to protect the heart, as is often recommended for instance in the lay press, should probably no longer be suggested without balancing risks and possible benefits for all heart and blood vessel diseases, including atrial fibrillation,” Schnabel said.