Just half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine a day can increase the risk of irregular heart rhythm by 16%, a study has found.
A study of almost 108,000 people taking part in five research projects in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Italy found that even low levels of alcohol consumption increased the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Increasing alcohol consumption to two drinks a day saw the risk rise to 28%. Those who consumed more than four alcoholic drinks a day faced a 47% risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.
“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,” said Professor Renate Schnabel of the University Heart and Vascular Center in Hamburg, Germany.
A total of 100,092 participants did not have atrial fibrillation when they enrolled in the study, which is published in the European Heart Journal. During the follow-up period of nearly 14 years, 5,854 people developed atrial fibrillation.
The association between alcohol consumption and the risk of atrial fibrillation were similar for all types of alcoholic drinks and for men and women.