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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Critique 110: Divergent effects of regular moderate and binge drinking – 30 April 2013

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The present study relates alcohol consumption during middle age to mortality over more than 20 years among a large cohort of subjects in Norway. In this study, the alcohol drinking pattern most commonly reported was heavy drinking on infrequent occasions. Previous research has demonstrated that a very different drinking pattern – the frequent consumption of small amounts of alcohol – is generally considered to be the pattern associated with most health benefits.

Specific comments on the present study: This paper from Norway has some unusual aspects, as it appears that most alcohol consumption in the subjects in this follow-up study occurred once a week or less frequently, but with the consumption of large amounts of alcohol on each drinking day. Only about 11% of men and 3% of women consumed alcohol more than once a week. Further, of 5,811 men who consumed alcohol, 4,411 (76%) reported binge drinking (≥ 5 drinks/occasion) at least once during the preceding year; among the 6,123 women in the study, 36% reported binge drinking “a few times last year” or more frequently.

In the present study, both men and women who reported consuming alcohol up to twice a month had about 20% lower mortality than did abstainers. All groups reporting binge drinking had higher mortality than non-binge drinkers (which was statistically significant for men and similar in estimated effect among women). The effects of alcohol intake on the risks of cardiovascular and ischemic heart disease mortality were similar to the risk of total mortality, being lower among drinkers but higher among those who reported binge drinking.  > > > >  Read More