International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 120: Binge Drinking Impairs Endothelial Function in Young People
By International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research | 20 August 2013
The latest critique by The ISFAR considers recent research linking alcohol consumption to cardiovascular harm
The function of the vascular endothelium is a key process in the development of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease, and extensive studies among middle-aged and elderly adults generally show beneficial effects of moderate drinking on vascular function.
Whether or not alcohol consumption among young people has any lasting biological effects on cardiovascular risk is unclear: Risk factors tend to track from childhood into adulthood, but specific, long-lasting effects related only to drinking in young people are not known. Hence, data is not currently available to answer the question as to when people might consider beginning the moderate consumption of alcohol for the potential lowering of cardiovascular risk later in life.
The present study does not answer that question, as it only compares abstaining young people with binge drinkers, with the latter being defined as subjects reporting that they consumed more than five drinks in two hours for males, and over four drinks in two hours for females. (The average number of binge-drinking episodes for these subjects was six – plus or minus one - within the past month.) It does not compare abstainers with moderate drinkers.
However, the paper does show that binge drinking among 18- to 25-year-olds does have adverse effects on endothelial function.
Forum reviewers were pleased to see this study, but pointed out that it is a cross-sectional analysis, and only compares binge drinkers with non-drinking young people. Further, inadequate data is presented to know the degree to which the results of the study may suffer from residual confounding from other factors.
The authors conclude that their study showed adverse effects on both microvascular and macrovascular function to be associated with frequent binge drinking in young people. It is hoped that these investigators, or others, will in the future provide data on the effects on vascular function of regular, moderate alcohol consumption among young people.
Further, it will be important to determine how long beneficial or adverse effects on vascular function may persist, with or without continued alcohol intake.
To read the full critique, click here.
These critiques are published with the permission of ISFAR.
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