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What is the Relationship Between Alcohol and Cholesterol?

By Helena Reimer
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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The relationship between alcohol and cholesterol is actually a positive one. Studies show that consuming alcohol in moderate amounts can help to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is often referred to as bad cholesterol, and the HDL is referred to as good cholesterol.

Good cholesterol is needed in the body for the production of certain hormones. It also works to improve the absorption of certain nutrients and to flush out the bad cholesterol. The bad cholesterol contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease when levels rise too high.

Studies have found a positive relationship between alcohol and cholesterol — namely that it can help to lower cholesterol levels when consumed in moderate amounts. For men, that amounts to one or two drinks daily, while one drink daily is sufficient for women. Consuming anything over the recommended amount will have adverse effects. Therefore, an alcoholic — or anyone who consumes alcohol in large amounts — will not be able to lower cholesterol through the use of alcohol.

Alcohol is generally loaded with high amounts of calories, which can cause blood triglyceride levels to rise, even if the alcohol is consumed in small amounts. Triglycerides are the molecules that hold excess calories until they are needed by the body for energy. High triglyceride levels, when combined with high amounts of alcohol and cholesterol levels that are abnormally high, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Exercise has been shown to be an effective way to help lower triglycerides and to help bring cholesterol levels back into balance. Therefore, moderate amounts of alcohol may be combined with exercise and a cholesterol diet to help raise the good cholesterol. A cholesterol diet involves reducing the intake of saturated and trans fats, while increasing the intake of monounsaturated fats. It also involves consuming plenty of high-fiber foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Extra caution should be taken when using alcohol as a way to balance cholesterol levels, because some studies indicate cholesterol medications and alcohol can interfere with each other. This interference may cause the bad cholesterol levels to rise even higher. Other problems that may arise as a result of using alcohol to lower cholesterol levels include heart disease, as well as the risk of alcoholism. When taking into consideration the positive relationship between alcohol and cholesterol, one should also take into consideration the risks associated with the regular use of alcohol and try to find a balance between the two.

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Discussion Comments
By fBoyle — On Jul 20, 2013

@ZipLine-- Yea, the relationship between alcohol is not an upward slope. It goes up and then goes down as more and more alcohol is consumed.

Also, my doctor said that for a cholesterol lowering drink, I should prefer red wine as it improves the circulation of cholesterol in the blood. So it makes it easier for the body to dump out the bad cholesterol.

By ZipLine — On Jul 19, 2013

@ankara-- The key to using alcohol to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol is moderation.

Unfortunately, some people think that the studies that have been done on the positive affects of alcohol on cholesterol give them the perfect excuse to drink heavily. But they forget that alcohol also raises blood pressure, blood sugar, causes weight gain and increases heart disease. And many people who have high LDL and low HDL suffer from other issues like diabetes and high blood pressure. I'm not even getting into the long-term affects of alcohol on the liver.

I definitely think that you should include alcohol in your low cholesterol diet but keep in mind that anything more than a glass or two daily is going to harm you, not benefit you.

By bluedolphin — On Jul 19, 2013

I was diagnosed with cholesterol a few weeks ago and have been looking into how to lower bad cholesterol the natural way. This is such good news that alcohol reduces LDL. I can now have my few glasses of daily wine without feeling guilty!

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