Posted on Mon, 13 Dec 10
It is much safer to space your alcohol throughout the week than to down it all in one day suggests a study contrasting the very different drinking behaviours of the French and Irish.
On one hand modest alcohol use lowers cardiovascular disease risk; on the other excessive drinking is responsible for 20-30% of deaths worldwide (1). To see how the modest daily drinking of the French contrasted with the binge prone Irish nearly 10,000 middle-aged men from both cultures were studied over a 10 year period.
“Alcohol consumption patterns differed radically in the two countries: in Belfast most men’s alcohol intake was concentrated on one day of the weekend (Saturday), whereas in the three French centres studied alcohol consumption was spread more evenly throughout the entire week” reported the study investigators (2). “However, the volumes of alcohol consumed by drinkers over an entire week were similar in Belfast and in the French centres.”
Despite the amount of alcohol intake being roughly the same the risk of heart attack or death was doubled in binge drinkers. The investigators point out that “the alcohol industry takes every opportunity to imbue alcohol consumption with a positive image, emphasising its beneficial effects on risk of ischemic heart disease, but people also need to be informed about the health consequences of heavy drinking.”
Binge drinking is defined as consuming an average of more than 5 drinks per day for men and more than 4 drinks per day for women more than once in a 6 month period.
1. World Health Organisation. Alcohol. http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/alcohol/en/index.html . Accessed on-line 23-08-2009.
2. Ruidavets JB, Ducimetière P, Evans A, et al. Patterns of alcohol consumption and ischaemic heart disease in culturally divergent countries: the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME). BMJ. 2010 Nov 23;341:c6077.
3. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/terms.htm#excessive. Accessed on-line 23-08-2009.