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Link between Alcohol Consumption and Metabolic Syndrome

Increased risk of metabolic syndrome may occur among those who are heavy drinkers…. 

A recent meta-analysis of six prospective studies, two each from Africa, Europe and the United States, had a total of 28, 862 participants who ranged in age from 18 to 100. Of the participants, there were 3,305 cases of metabolic syndrome. In order to estimate the dose-response relationship, the consumption of alcohol was categorized into six groups:

  • Nondrinker: 0 g/day
  • Very light drinker: 0.1-5 g/day
  • Light drinker: 5.1-10 g/day
  • Moderate drinker: 10.1-20 g/day
  • Moderate-heavy drinker: 20.1-35 g/day
  • Heavy drinker: > 35 g/day

Comparisons of the groups showed that the very light drinker group was associated with a 14 percent decreased risk of metabolic syndrome when compared to the nondrinker group; whereas the group of heavy drinkers was associated with an 84 percent increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Of the other categories of drinkers, there were no significant calculated risks.

Although this study provides some insight on the association of the amount of alcohol consumption and the risk of metabolic syndrome, there were some limitations which show the need for further studies. Some of those limitations include no standard measurement of alcohol consumption, self-reporting of consumption by participants, a very diverse group of participants, and the fact that there was no differentiation between beer, wine or liquor.

Practice Pearls: 
  • Amount of alcohol consumption may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Heavy drinkers have an 84% increased risk.
  • Further studies are needed to overcome limitations and better understand the correlation.

Clinical Nutrition, October 2013