Alcohol consumption in relation to cardiovascular diseases and mortality: a systematic review of Mendelian randomization studies

Inge A. T. van de Luitgaarden, Sabine van Oort, Emma J. Bouman, Linda J. Schoonmade, Ilse C. Schrieks, Diederick E. Grobbee, Yvonne T. van der Schouw, Susanna C. Larsson, Stephen Burgess, Adriana J. van Ballegooijen, N. Charlotte Onland-Moret, Joline W. J. Beulens

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The causal effects of alcohol-in-moderation on cardiometabolic health are continuously debated. Mendelian randomization (MR) is an established method to address causal questions in observational studies. We performed a systematic review of the current evidence from MR studies on the association between alcohol consumption and cardiometabolic diseases, all-cause mortality and cardiovascular risk factors. We performed a systematic search of the literature, including search terms on type of design and exposure. We assessed methodological quality based on key elements of the MR design: use of a full instrumental variable analysis and validation of the three key MR assumptions. We additionally looked at exploration of non-linearity. We reported the direction of the studied associations. Our search yielded 24 studies that were eligible for inclusion. A full instrumental variable analysis was performed in 17 studies (71%) and 13 out of 24 studies (54%) validated all three key assumptions. Five studies (21%) assessed potential non-linearity. In general, null associations were reported for genetically predicted alcohol consumption with the primary outcomes cardiovascular disease (67%) and diabetes (75%), while the only study on all-cause mortality reported a detrimental association. Considering the heterogeneity in methodological quality of the included MR studies, it is not yet possible to draw conclusions on the causal role of moderate alcohol consumption on cardiometabolic health. As MR is a rapidly evolving field, we expect that future MR studies, especially with recent developments regarding instrument selection and non-linearity methodology, will further substantiate this discussion.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Early online date2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021


  • Alcohol consumption
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cardiovascular risk factors
  • Diabetes
  • Mendelian randomization
  • Mortality
  • Systematic review

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