Instead the association advises health care professionals to emphasize other risk-reduction options that are well documented and free of the potential hazards associated with alcohol consumption, such as lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling weight and getting enough exercise.
The hypothesis that drinking wine - particularly red wine - helps counteract the harmful effects of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat grew out of population surveys showing lower rates of heart disease, despite high-fat diets, in some parts of Europe where wine is consumed regularly.
However, this hypothesis deserves further investigation, says Dr Ira J. Goldberg, a member of the association's Nutrition Committee.
"The pattern of consumption of alcoholic beverages may be a marker for other lifestyle factors related to heart disease risk. A number of dietary factors, such as eating fresh fruits, vegetables and fish, and reduced intake of milk products differ between American and European populations and are associated with reduced heart disease risk."
The advisory notes that more than 60 studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption can increase blood levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. One to two alcoholic drinks per day may increase HDL by about 12% on average.
The proposed benefits of alcohol consumption must be weighed against the adverse effects.
|Dr Ira J. Goldberg |
However this increase is similar to that seen with exercise programs and medications. "Niacin therapy is effective is effective in raising HDL even higher, for about a 20% increase," Goldberg says.
The proposed benefits of alcohol consumption must be weighed against the adverse effects, writes the advisory team. Adverse effects of long-term alcohol consumption include fetal alcohol syndrome, cardiomyopathy, stroke, irregular heartbeat and sudden death.
The advisory concludes that without a large-scale trial that focuses specifically on wine intake and its association with heart disease risk, the The American Heart Association urges individuals to talk to their physicians about the benefits and risks of drinking alcoholic beverages.