Back in the early 1900s, pathologists made a startling discovery: The major arteries of people who died of alcoholic liver cirrhosis were “clean” – meaning free of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). At the time, scientists were unable to put their finger on the reason. Some theorized that alcohol worked as a kind of “solvent” that scrubbed the arteries of oxidized cholesterol.
Giving Up Alcohol Boosts Your Risk of Disease
Another clue emerged during the 1960s. Scientists started using computers to find risk factors for heart disease. After crunching all the data, which included factors like age, gender, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, etc. – they discovered something unexpected: Abstinence from alcohol increased a person’s risk of heart attack.
Until then, many studies missed this point. The reason was simple. Researchers always failed to separate drinkers from smokers. Because regular drinkers tended to also smoke – especially in the 1940s and 50s – the negative effects of tobacco hid the benefits of alcohol.