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Background and Purpose-: Several epidemiological studies have suggested a U-shaped association between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular risk. However, the modifications of vascular structure associated with alcohol consumption are largely unknown.

Methods-: The study population sample comprised 6216 subjects (3780 women and 2436 men) aged 65 years or older who were recruited from 3 French cities (Bordeaux, Dijon, and Montpellier, which are located in the 3 principal wine-growing regions). Usual alcohol consumption was assessed by a standardized questionnaire. Carotid ultrasound examination included measurements (at sites free of plaques) of intima-media thickness (IMT) at the common carotid arteries (CCA), CCA-lumen diameter, and assessment of atherosclerotic plaques in the extracranial carotid arteries.

Results-: Neither CCA-IMT nor carotid plaques were associated with alcohol consumption categories in the overall population. Weak and marginal positive associations were observed between categories of alcohol consumption and carotid plaques in men (P=0.02 for linear trend). CCA-lumen diameter was positively and independently associated with alcohol consumption in overall population and in men and in women. Similar results were found between alcohol consumption and carotid measurements in subjects free of cardiovascular disease (90.1% of the population).

Conclusions-: This very large population sample of French older adults shows no marked relationships of alcohol consumption with atherosclerosis. The positive association of alcohol intake with carotid arterial diameter may reflect the ability of alcohol to maintain adaptive enlargement to preserve lumen area.

(C) 2004 American Heart Association, Inc.