Moderate alcohol intake is related to increased heart rate variability in young adults: Implications for health and well-being

Authors

  • Daniel S. Quintana,

    1. SCAN Research & Teaching Unit, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    2. Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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  • Adam J. Guastella,

    1. Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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  • Iain S. McGregor,

    1. Psychopharmacology Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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  • Ian B. Hickie,

    1. Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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  • Andrew H. Kemp

    Corresponding author
    1. SCAN Research & Teaching Unit, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    2. Psychopharmacology Laboratory, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    3. Discipline of Psychiatry, Northern Clinical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
    • Address correspondence to: Andrew H. Kemp, Centro de Pesquisa Clínica e Epidemiológica Hospital Universitário, Universidade de Saão Paulo, Av Lineu Prestes 2565, 05508-000 Saão Paulo SP, Brazil. E-mail: andrew.kemp@sydney.edu.au

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  • This research was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (571101, 510135) and the Australian Research Council (LP110200562, 0771426). Scholarship support for DSQ came from Australian Rotary Health/Hooton Family. AHK is currently supported by an International Research Professorship from the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil.

Abstract

Epidemiological literature indicates that the relationship between alcohol consumption and health outcomes reflects a J-shaped curve such that moderate alcohol consumption confers a protective effect in comparison to abstinence, while heavy consumption is associated with poorer health. While heart rate variability (HRV) may underpin the relationship between drinking and poor health in heavy drinkers, it is unclear whether HRV is increased in moderate, habitual drinkers relative to nonhabitual drinkers. HRV and drinking habits were assessed in 47 volunteers. Results supported hypotheses suggesting that moderate, habitual drinking increases HRV. Although not supported by a significant interaction between drinking group and sex, planned follow-up analysis also revealed that these findings may be specific to males. Regardless, results highlight HRV as a candidate mechanism for the findings reported in the epidemiological literature.

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