Having high cholesterol, or high LDL levels, is so common that it almost seems inevitable…
What Is the Connection Between Alcohol and Cholesterol?
By Gideon Hoyle
Many people are well aware of the basic health effects of their alcohol consumption and cholesterol levels. But did you know that alcohol and cholesterol have a direct health connection? In fact, if you drink excessively, you can potentially drive up your blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase your long-term risks for heart disease.
Cholesterol is made primarily from two substances: fat and protein. Your body contains several types of cholesterol, but the most important forms are known as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). You make LDL in your liver, and absorb it from meat and other animal products, as well. Your liver also makes HDL cholesterol. While you need some LDL cholesterol to live, high amounts of this substance can clog your arteries and boost your chances of experiencing a heart attack and other serious heart- or blood vessel-related problems. HDL cholesterol helps you stay healthy by pulling excess LDL out of your bloodstream.
Impact of Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can have varying effects on your cholesterol levels. If you drink in moderate amounts, you may actually increase your blood levels of beneficial HDL to a small degree. However, given the many possible harmful effects of alcohol consumption (including the potential for physical dependence and addiction), no doctor or public health expert would ever recommend drinking as a way to boost your HDL totals. What’s more, studies show that people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol experience substantial increases in their LDL cholesterol levels, along with a simultaneous significant drop in their HDL levels. Although no one knows why, you seem to have higher chances of experiencing harmful cholesterol changes when you occasionally drink too much alcohol than when you consistently drink too much.
Limiting Your Alcohol Intake
Given the overall nature of the link between alcohol and cholesterol, doctors and public health experts recommend that you limit your alcohol consumption. The maximum intake for men who want to support their cholesterol-related health is just two drinks a day. Women can only consume a single drink per day if they want to avoid the possibility of increasing their cholesterol levels.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Is Cholesterol?
Alcohol: Associations Between Heavy Alcohol Drinking and Lipid-Related Indices in Middle-Aged Men
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing or Managing High Cholesterol – Healthy Living Habits