1. This cross-sectional study examined the influence of alcohol intake on organ injuries in normotensive and hypertensive subjects.

2. A total of 514 normotensive subjects and 302 never-treated hypertensive subjects were screened from 4557 men who entered the health check programme of our institute during the period 1990 to 1994. According to the daily alcohol consumption data reported by a self-administered questionnaire, the normotensive and hypertensive subjects were both classified into four categories; very light and non- (0–10 ml of ethanol), light (11–29 ml), moderate (30–58 ml) and heavy (≥59 ml) drinker groups. In these four pairs of groups, organ injuries in the heart, kidney and optic fundus were evaluated and serum lipids were measured.

3. Although the blood pressure levels were similar among the four groups of hypertensive subjects, the electrocardiographic findings of left ventricular hypertrophy were significantly more common among the moderate and heavy drinkers but not in the light drinkers compared with the very light and non-drinkers (very light and non-drinkers 25%, light drinkers 23%, moderate drinkers 38%, heavy drinkers 40%; P = 0.026). The alcohol intake increased the serum level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in a dose-dependent manner without changing the total cholesterol level; however, the serum γ-glutamyl transpeptidase and triacylglycerol levels were increased in the moderate and heavy drinkers. Urinary albumin excretion and fundoscopic lesions were not associated with the drinking habit in either the normotensive or hypertensive subjects.

4. These data suggest that habitual alcohol consumption exceeding 29 ml per day facilitates the development of left ventricular hypertrophy in hypertensive patients. Among the hypertensive subjects, light drinkers consuming 11 to 29 ml of ethanol daily showed preferable profiles in terms of organ injuries and risks of cardiovascular diseases.

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