The development of metabolic syndrome (MetS) is influenced by environmental factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption. We determined the combined effects of smoking and alcohol on MetS and its individual components.
64,046 participants aged 18-80 years from the LifeLines Cohort study were categorized into three body mass index (BMI) classes (BMI<25, normal weight; BMI 25-30, overweight; BMI≥30 kg/m2, obese). MetS was defined according to the revised criteria of the National Cholesterol Education Program's Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP ATP III). Within each BMI class and smoking subgroup (non-smoker, former smoker, <20 and ≥20 g tobacco/day), the cross-sectional association between alcohol and individual MetS components was tested using regression analysis.
Prevalence of MetS varied greatly between the different smoking-alcohol subgroups (1.7-71.1%). HDL cholesterol levels in all alcohol drinkers were higher than in non-drinkers (0.02 to 0.29 mmol/L, P values<0.001). HDL cholesterol levels were lower when they were also a former or current smoker (<20 and ≥20 g tobacco/day). Consumption of ≤1 drink/day indicated a trend towards lower triglyceride levels (non-significant). Concurrent use alcohol (>1 drink/day) and tobacco showed higher triglycerides levels. Up to 2 drinks/day was associated with a smaller waist circumference in overweight and obese individuals. Consumption of >2 drinks/day increased blood pressure, with the strongest associations found for heavy smokers. The overall metabolic profile of wine drinkers was better than that of non-drinkers or drinkers of beer or spirits/mixed drinks.
Light alcohol consumption may moderate the negative associations of smoking with MetS. Our results suggest that the lifestyle advice that emphasizes smoking cessation and the restriction of alcohol consumption to a maximum of 1 drink/day, is a good approach to reduce the prevalence of MetS.