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Binge Drinking Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

A new study has found that binge drinking could lead to increased rates of heart disease. The study compared drinking patterns of middle-aged men in France and Belfast, and found that both countries consume the same amount of alcohol over a week. However, in Belfast alcohol tends to be consumed over one or two days rather than regularly throughout the week as in France, and the amount of alcohol consumed in Belfast over the weekend is about two to three times higher than France.

Previous research has discovered a link between alcohol consumption and heart disease, but the role of drinking patterns and the type of alcohol consumed remains unclear. The researchers wanted to examine whether drinking patterns in Northern Ireland and France were linked to the disparity between the two countries.

Dr. Jean-Bernard Ruidavets from Toulouse University and colleagues examined the alcohol consumption of 9,758 men from three areas of France and Belfast over a ten-year period. At the beginning of the study, the men were between the ages of 50 to 59 and didn’t have heart disease.

The participants were divided into four groups: Never drinkers, former drinkers, regular drinkers, and binge drinkers. The men were asked questions about the amount of alcohol they drank on a daily and weekly basis, and what type of beverage they drank. The researchers took into account risk factors such as age, tobacco use, physical activity, waist circumference, and blood pressure.

The study found that men who binge drink had nearly twice the risk of heart disease (including heart attack or death) compared to regular drinkers over the ten-year period. Binge drinking is defined as having four to five drinks in one sitting.

The researchers said they found that drinking patterns differed significantly in the two countries. In Belfast most men drank on one day of the weekend (Saturday), whereas in France, drinking was spread out more evenly over the week. They added that the risk of heart disease was almost 20 times higher in Belfast than in the French areas.

One reason for the higher risk of heart disease in Belfast could be that people there tend to drink more beer and spirits than wine, whereas wine is the main alcoholic drink of choice in France. Some research has found that moderate consumption of wine can protect against heart disease.

The researchers conclude that because binge drinking is increasing among young people in Mediterranean countries, people need to understand the consequences of binge drinking, which is also associated with other health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver and several cancers.

Source: Science Daily, Binge Drinking May Lead to Higher Risk of Heart Disease, November 23, 2010