Causal Role of Alcohol Consumption in an Improved Lipid Profile: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study

INTRODUCTION: Health benefits of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption may operate through an improved lipid profile. A Mendelian randomization (MR) approach was used to examine whether alcohol consumption causally affects lipid levels.

METHODS: This analysis involved 10,893 European Americans (EA) from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Common and rare variants in alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase genes were evaluated for MR assumptions. Five variants, residing in the ADH1B, ADH1C, and ADH4 genes, were selected as genetic instruments and were combined into an unweighted genetic score. Triglycerides (TG), total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) and its subfractions (HDL2-c and HDL3-c), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c), small dense LDL-c (sdLDL-c), apolipoprotein B (apoB), and lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)) levels were analyzed.

RESULTS: Alcohol consumption significantly increased HDL2-c and reduced TG, total cholesterol, LDL-c, sdLDL-c, and apoB levels. For each of these lipids a non-linear trend was observed. Compared to the first quartile of alcohol consumption, the third quartile had a 12.3% lower level of TG (p < 0.001), a 7.71 mg/dL lower level of total cholesterol (p = 0.007), a 10.3% higher level of HDL2-c (p = 0.007), a 6.87 mg/dL lower level of LDL-c (p = 0.012), a 7.4% lower level of sdLDL-c (p = 0.037), and a 3.5% lower level of apoB (p = 0.058, poverall = 0.022).

CONCLUSIONS: This study supports the causal role of regular low-to-moderate alcohol consumption in increasing HDL2-c, reducing TG, total cholesterol, and LDL-c, and provides evidence for the novel finding that low-to-moderate consumption of alcohol reduces apoB and sdLDL-c levels among EA. However, given the nonlinearity of the effect of alcohol consumption, even within the range of low-to-moderate drinking, increased consumption does not always result in a larger benefit.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Vu K.N.; Ballantyne C.M.; Hoogeveen R.C.; Nambi V.; Volcik K.A.; Boerwinkle E.; Morrison A.C.
  • Issue

    PLoS.ONE. / pages e0148765- / volume 11
  • Published Date