A six-year analysis of alcohol consumption and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in 80,000 healthy adults found that moderate alcohol consumption was linked with a slower decline in HDL levels when compared to non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Adults were grouped into separate categories: never drinkers to heavy drinker (defined as more than one daily serving of alcohol for women and more than two daily servings for men). Consumption was all self-reported.

Results showed that compared to never drinkers, moderate drinkers (men drinking one to two servings daily and women a half to one serving daily) had a 0.017mmol/year slower decrease rate in HDL vs. heavy drinkers who had a 0.008mmol/year slower decrease rate in HDL.

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The slowest HDL decreases were found in the group who specifically reported moderate beer consumption. Among hard liquor drinkers, only self-reported light to moderate drinking (men: less than 1 serving a day; women: zero to 0.4 servings daily) resulted in slower rates of HDL decline.

The population in this study was all Chinese citizens and the researchers note that further studies are needed to see if the results can be observed in other populations. Future studies should also consider any clinically relevant outcomes based on the type of alcohol consumed, noting how there was not enough wine drinkers included in the study to assess its effects on HDL.

The full study was presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Scientific Sessions 2016. The AHA recommends consuming alcohol in moderation if you already drink but cautions people not to start drinking.

For more information visit heart.org.