Latest scientific news 28 July 2014

Can moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages reduce the risk ballooning of the abdominal aorta?

Moderate intake of alcoholic beverages seems to be associated with lower risks of abdominal aortic aneurysm.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an abnormal area of localised widening (ballooning) of the abdominal aorta, exceeding the normal diameter by more than 50%. The wall of an aneurysm is weaker than that of a normal artery wall. The pressure of the blood inside the artery causes the weaker section of the wall to balloon. This normally does not cause any symptoms. Occasionally, it causes pain in the abdomen and back (due to pressure on surrounding tissues) or in the legs (due to disturbed blood flow). An AAA can rupture with large amounts of blood spilling into the abdominal cavity. This can lead to death within minutes. An AAA less than 55 mm wide has a low chance of rupture. An operation to repair the aneurysm may be advised if it is larger than 55 mm, as the risk of rupture increases significantly above this size. AAAs most commonly occur in individuals between 65 and 75 years old and it is more common among men and smokers.

Studies investigating the role of alcohol consumption in the development of abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) are scarce. Swedish researchers examined the association between total alcohol consumption as well as specific alcoholic beverages and the risk of AAA.

They assessed the drinking habits of 44 715 men from the Cohort of Swedish Men and of 35 569 women from the Swedish Mammography Cohort, aged 46 to 84 years, through a food frequency questionnaire at the start of the study in 1998. During the 14-year follow-up until December 2011, AAA occurred in 1020 men and 194 women. Compared to one alcoholic drink/week (12 grams of ethanol), the Hazard Ratio of AAA among men who consumed 10 drinks/week was lowered by 20 % (HR = 0.80; 95% CI, 0.68-0.94). The corresponding Hazard Ratio among women who consumed 5 drinks per week was lowered by 43 % (HR = 0.57; 95% CI, 0.40-0.82). Among participants free of cardiovascular disease, total consumption of alcoholic beverages did not seem to be associated with disease risk. The most commonly consumed alcoholic beverages – beer among men and wine among women – were inversely associated, whereas no association was observed for liquor.

The researchers concluded that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages was associated with a lower risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Stackelberg O, Björck M, Larsson SC, et al. Alcohol Consumption, Specific Alcoholic Beverages, and Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. Circulation. published online June 25, 2014, DOI:1 0.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.008279

For more information about this article, read the scientific abstract here.