Alcohol Consumption Risk Thresholds in Relation to Incident Atrial Fibrillation

This study describes associations of total and beverage-specific alcohol consumption with incident atrial fibrillation.

Consuming 1 to 7 standard UK alcoholic beverages (56 g) per week was associated with the lowest risk for atrial fibrillation (AF), according to results of a risk assessment study published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology.

Researchers from Australia sourced data from the UK Biobank for this analysis. Incidence of AF during a median 11.4-year follow-up was associated with self-reported alcohol consumption among 403,281 individuals.

The study participants were 52.4% women, had a median age of 58.2 (interquartile range [IQR], 50.5-63.6) years. Of the participants, 94.4% were White, and their alcohol consumption was reported as 8.0 (IQR, 3.5-15.4) drinks per week. Increased alcohol consumption was reported by individuals who tended to be younger White men, and ex-drinkers tended to be older non-White women.

A total of 21,312 incident AF during the follow-up. Risk for AF exhibited a J-shaped association, in which individuals who consumed up to 7 drinks per week had lower risk (hazard ratio [HR], 0.91; 95% CI, 0.86-0.96) than those consuming no drinks (HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.91-1.00) or more than 7 drinks weekly.

Stratified by alcohol source, beer or cider had a positive linear association and wine or sprits had a positive curvilinear association. Light drinkers (1 to 7 drinks/week) who drank red (HR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.75-0.92) or white (HR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.79-1.00) wine were at decreased risk compared with beer or cider drinkers. Individuals who were light spirit drinkers had a risk similar to that of beer or cider drinkers (HR, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.92-1.18).

Individuals who were ex-drinkers were at greatest risk for AF (HR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.03-1.18).

This study was likely limited by the self-reported quantification of alcohol consumption.

The study authors concluded that individuals who consume a modest amount of alcohol every week, especially wine, were at the lowest risk for incident AF compared with those who do not drink alcohol at all and those who drink greater volumes. Former drinkers were associated with the greatest risk for AF.

Disclosure: Some authors declared affiliations with biomedical, pharmaceutical,, and/or device companies. Please see the original article for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Tu SJ, Gallagher C, Elliott AD, et al. Risk thresholds for total and beverage-specific alcohol consumption and incident atrial fibrillation. JACC Clin Electrophysiol. Published online July 19, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.jacep.2021.05.013