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The Benefits of Alcohol May be Genetic

Nov 17, 2014 09:31 PM EST

A new study has revealed that only a small portion of the population receives heart health benefits from moderate and regular alcohol consumption. Interestingly, these lucky few all boast the same genetic profile, suggesting that a person's health gains from alcohol may be heavily influenced by their genes.

The study, published in the aptly named journal Alcohol, details how one to two alcoholic drinks a day, such as a glass of wine during dinner, is linked to a markedly decreased risk of coronary heart disease.

This was determined after the drinking habits of 453 men and 165 women under the age of 75 were assessed. All of the individuals were experiencing some sign of encroaching coronary heart disease.

Data on these participants was compared with the survey answers of nearly 3,000 healthy control subjects, who reported about their drinking habits and lifestyle, as well as submitted blood samples.

The researchers quickly found that regular moderate drinking did help reduce heart disease risk, but only among an average of 15 percent of people. For the remaining 85 percent of the population, this drinking had no noted positive influence on heart health.

Interestingly, among the 15 percent group, all of them shared a particular genotype of the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) polymorphism - a genotype that none of the other 85 percent boasted.

"Moderate drinking alone does not have a strong protective effect," researcher Lauren Lissner explained in a statement. "Nor does this particular genotype. But the combination of the two appears to significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."

So then how does this work? It remains unclear, but one theory is that alcohol somehow affects the CETP in a way that affects the 'good' cardio-protective cholesterol that helps remove excess lipids from blood vessels.

"Our study represents a step in the right direction," researcher Dag Thelle added, "but a lot more research is needed. Assuming that we are able to describe these mechanisms, it may be a simple matter one day to perform genetic testing and determine whether someone belongs to the lucky 15 percent."

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