Study author John Cullen, a research associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, says population studies support an association between alcohol and cardiovascular disease, but this research relied on self-reported data, which is not always accurate or reliable.
The study, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, found daily moderate drinking -- two drinks per day, seven days a week -- decreased atherosclerosis in mice. Binge drinking -- seven drinks a day over the weekend --– increased development of the disease.
Atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of arteries, is a serious condition that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
"People need to consider not only how much alcohol they drink, but the way in which they are drinking it," Cullen says in a statement. "Research shows that people have yet to be convinced of the dangers of binge drinking to their health; we're hoping our work changes that."
However, scientists don't yet understand how moderate alcohol consumption benefits cardiovascular health or how binge drinking episodes hurt it, Cullen says.