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Understanding the Relationship Between Alcohol and Cholesterol Levels

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Alcohol does not contain cholesterol but has a negative impact on cholesterol levels. This article is about drinking alcohol and its effect on cholesterol levels.

Written by

Dr. Swathi. R

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At May 22, 2023
Reviewed AtNovember 21, 2023

Introduction:

As much as one may think cholesterol is unhealthy, it is essential for one's health. Hence, it makes up the membrane surrounding the body cells and is necessary to produce vitamin D and the hormones testosterone and estrogen. The body needs cholesterol to function, however increased cholesterol levels contribute to health problems and increase the risk of heart diseases. That is the reason for keeping cholesterol within a healthy range. Many factors may affect cholesterol levels, including dietary intake and body weight. Alcohol intake also influences cholesterol levels in both negative as well as positive way. One may have heard that drinking about a glass of red wine daily may help reduce one's risk of heart disease. Alcohol has some heart-healthy benefits. But before one raises a glass, one should know everything about the alcohol.

How Will Alcohol Affect Cholesterol Tests?

The relationship between health and alcohol is complicated, and it depends on many factors, including how often and how much a person drinks. Light to moderate alcohol intake is not usually harmful; heavy alcohol may cause more ill effects to the health. It is proven that heavy intake of alcohol increases the risks for developing certain cancers, heart diseases, and liver diseases. Alcohol consumption may affect the cholesterol levels differently, depending on the level and the frequency of intake.

Will Light to Moderate Alcohol Intake Improve HDL Good Cholesterol?

Light alcohol may increase the levels of HDL cholesterol. HDL protects heart health because it may collect the excess cholesterol and transport it to the liver, where it will be removed or recycled. This may reduce the formation of plaque in the arteries. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol may help against heart diseases and related health problems. Mild to moderate consumption of alcohol is linked with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease-related death in most populations and stroke.

Does Heavy Alcohol Increase Heart Risk Factors?

Heavy drinking is persistantly associated with negative outcomes affecting health, leading to increased LDL levels (bad cholesterol), blood pressure, and triglycerides. People associated with high-intensity binge drinking—around eight or more drinks for women and ten or more drinks for men per day—have a two to eight fold increased risk of high triglyceride and total cholesterol levels. Excess alcohol intake may increase the waist circumference and blood pressure which are also considered heart disease risk factors. Heavy drinking progressively increases the chance of heart diseases and related cardiac complications that are often fatal.

How Often and How Much Alcohol Drinking May Affect Cholesterol?

Effects of alcohol on overall health include increased cholesterol levels, depending on many factors. Alcohol does not influence in the same manner and cause similar side effects. For instance, women are more sensitive when compared to men to the alcohol effect as they have lower levels of enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down the alcohol. For females, metabolizing alcohol at the same rate as males is not possible, and they can absorb more alcohol into the bloodstream. Females are generally smaller than males due to this reason, which explains why alcohol intake recommendations differ by sex. Moderate alcohol intake is recommended and may differ by sex. The current recommendation for moderate alcohol intake is one drink per day or less than one drink for females and two drinks per day or less than two drinks for males. Heavy drinking is associated with numerous health risks and is defined as,

  • Males: Four or more drinks given a day or more than 14 drinks per week.

  • Females: Three or more drinks or more than seven drinks per week.

Based on some studies, maximum potential benefits for heart health may occur at low alcohol intake levels of 0.5 to one standard drink per day for females and one to two standard drinks per day for males. Even if one is categorized as heavy drinker, reducing the alcohol intake significantly lowers the potential risk of heart disorders. Noticeably, ten years of study when people with those who consistently drank more amounts.

Was It Possible to Drink Alcohol and Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels?

For most people, light to moderate drinking does not affect cholesterol levels negatively. As it may improve HDL cholesterol levels and even reduce the risk of heart disease. Heavy drinking may impair heart health and raise total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Keeping the cholesterol levels within a certain range was recommended in order to keep the heart healthy.

Current cholesterol recommendations are listed below:

  • Total Cholesterol: 200 mg/dl (5.2 mmol/L) or less.

  • LDL Cholesterol: 130 mg/dl (3.4 mmol/l) or less.

  • HDL Cholesterol: 40 mg/dl (1 mmol/L) or higher in males and 50 mg/dl (1.3 mmol/L) or higher in females.

Even though maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is essential to reducing heart disease risk, many factors may contribute to the condition, including sex, genetics, and blood pressure.

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle that include limited alcohol consumption, a moderate body weight, and staying active while following a nutritious diet promotes healthy cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease and other conditions.

When Should One Consult a Doctor?

Health care providers may help to test one's cholesterol levels to determine whether they are currently within a healthy range as well as provide access to potential heart disease risk factors. If one is currently consuming multiple drinks per day or feels that one's alcohol intake is harming one's physical and mental health, there are ways to get help. Mild to moderate intake of alcohol is less likely to influence cholesterol levels, however heavy drinking could cause harmful effects. If one is concerned that one's drinking is damaging one's health, consult healthcare.

Conclusion:

Depending on the intake of alcohol, it may either negatively or positively affect cholesterol levels and measure heart health. Moderate to light drinking may also help in increasing HDL cholesterol. Using heavy alcohol was associated with triglycerides and elevated levels of LDL cholesterol as well as a greater risk causing heart disease, and even death may happen due to this condition. If one is concerned about cholesterol levels or alcohol intake, discuss it with the health care provider, who can provide appropriate testing and additional resources if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Is the Best Drink That Helps Lower Cholesterol?

The best drink to help reduce cholesterol is green tea. Green tea contains compounds called catechins that have been linked to reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in some studies. Consuming it regularly as part of a heart-healthy diet can help reduce cholesterol levels.

2.

Are There Quick Ways to Lower Cholesterol Levels?

Lowering cholesterol quickly typically involves making immediate dietary and lifestyle changes. Also, regular physical activity and reducing saturated and trans fats in the diet can rapidly impact cholesterol levels.

3.

Can Alcohol Intake Affect the Absorption of Cholesterol in the Body?

Alcohol, consumed in moderation, is associated with the ability to increase HDL (good) cholesterol, which can help remove LDL cholesterol from the blood. However, drinking too much alcohol can cause negative health effects, including increased cholesterol levels.

4.

Does Drinking Alcohol Raise Cholesterol Levels?

Excessive alcohol intake can raise cholesterol levels, particularly triglycerides. Chronic heavy drinking can contribute to higher LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are risk factors for heart disease.

5.

What Foods Should Be Avoided Before a Cholesterol Test?

Before a cholesterol test, it is advisable to avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, as it can temporarily raise triglyceride levels. One should also refrain from consuming fatty or fried foods for several days before the test, as they can affect cholesterol levels. Fasting for at least 9 to 12 hours is often recommended for an accurate fasting lipid profile.

6.

Till What Duration Does the Triglyceride Levels Remain Elevated After Alcohol Consumption?

Triglyceride levels can remain elevated for several hours after consuming alcohol, and the duration of elevation can vary depending on the amount of alcohol consumed and individual factors. The levels were found to be in peak between 4 to 6 hours after drinking alcohol. In some cases, triglyceride levels may take up to 24 hours to return to baseline.

7.

Can Garlic Lower Cholesterol?

Some studies suggest garlic may have a modest effect in lowering cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, is thought to contribute to this effect. Consuming half to one clove of garlic daily has been found to lead to a reduction of approximately 10 percent in cholesterol levels.

8.

To What Extent Does Alcohol Consumption Impact Heart Rate?

Alcohol consumption can lead to an increase in heart rate, especially if consumed in large quantities. Drinking in moderation may not significantly impact heart rate, but excessive alcohol intake can lead to irregular heart rhythms and other cardiovascular issues.

9.

What Symptoms Indicate That Alcohol Is Affecting the Heart?

Signs that alcohol may be affecting your heart include an irregular or rapid heartbeat, palpitations, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath. If one suspects that alcohol is impacting their heart health, they should seek medical advice and consider reducing or quitting alcohol consumption.

10.

Is It Possible to Get Heart Disease From Alcohol?

Yes, excessive and chronic alcohol consumption is a risk factor for heart disease. It can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, cardiomyopathy, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

11.

Is Cardiac Damage From Alcohol Reversible?

Some heart damage caused by alcohol may be reversible if detected early and with lifestyle changes, including abstinence from alcohol. The heart has some capacity for repair and recovery. The degree of recovery depends on factors such as the duration and severity of alcohol abuse, personal health, and adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

12.

What Amount of Alcohol Is Unhealthy?

Moderate alcohol consumption is typically characterized by a limit of one daily drink for women and up to two daily drinks for men. Consuming more than this regularly is associated with an increased risk of various health issues like liver disease, addiction, and heart disease.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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