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How does alcohol affect your cholesterol?

Dr Louisa Draper

"Current UK government guidelines state that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. They suggest drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women. "

Dr Louisa Draper

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Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is carried around the body by proteins. When cholesterol and proteins come together they are called lipoproteins and there are two types, “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. The consumption of alcohol has various effects on your health and depending on how much you drink, and it can affect your cholesterol levels. 

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol has been shown to have a positive effect on ‘good’ cholesterol (also known as high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL) levels. Good cholesterol is thought to slow the build-up of arterial plaque. Arterial plaque build-up leads to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases

On the other hand, drinking excessively could be linked to high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL). High LDL levels increase the risk of heart disease as they are thought to be linked to the build-up of arterial plaque and the associated increased risk of heart disease.

Drinking alcohol excessively as well as eating too much fat also raises levels of a blood lipid (fat) called triglycerides, which are also a risk factor in heart disease. 

People whose circulatory systems carry high amounts of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low amounts of HDL (good) cholesterol have increased chances of cardiovascular conditions including stroke, heart attack and heart disease.