Many addictive substances, such as tobacco and alcohol, influence atherosclerosis development. Whether tobacco’s pro-atherosclerotic effect is influenced by alcohol consumption is unknown. We aimed to estimate the impact of alcohol intake on the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis in femoral arteries in smoking and non-smoking middle-aged men.
Cross-sectional analysis of a subset of the Aragon Workers Health Study (AWHS), comprising 2099 men with mean age 50.9 years without previous cardiovascular disease.
The presence of plaques in femoral arteries was assessed by high-resolution sonography. Self-reported alcohol consumption over the previous year was measured with a food frequency questionnaire. The sample was divided into four groups according to their daily grams of alcohol consumption ≤1 (abstainers), ≥2 to <30, ≥30 to <60, and ≥60 g/day. Participants were divided on ever-smoking (current and former), versus never-smoking strata in the main analysis.
We did not find a significant association between the different levels of alcohol intake and the likelihood of developing femoral artery atherosclerosis in never-smokers. Ever-smoking was positively associated with femoral atherosclerosis overall (OR=3.00; 95%CI:2.40,3.74; p<0.001) and within each level of alcohol consumption. Atherosclerosis was lower in ever-smokers who consumed 2g/day or more but less than 30g/day with respect to those ever-smokers who were abstainers (OR=0.70; 95%CI:0.49,0.99; p<0.05). However, among them, atherosclerosis prevalence was still higher than among never-smokers who consumed alcohol in the same amount (2g/day or more but less than 30g/day) (OR=2.73; 95%CI:2.07,3.61; p<0.001).
Among middle-aged men, moderate alcohol consumption appears to be associated with lower prevalence of femoral artery subclinical atherosclerosis compared with alcohol abstinence only in ever-smokers.

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