International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 110: Divergent Effects of Regular, Moderate and Binge Drinking
By International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research | 30 April 2013
The latest critique from the ISFAR looks at a study that relates alcohol consumption to mortality over 20 years
A prospective epidemiologic study relates alcohol consumption measured in young to middle-aged adults to mortality over a follow-up period of 20 years.
The analyses are based on data from a large population in a region of Norway where the alcohol drinking pattern most commonly reported was binge 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.
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 had a similar estimated effect among women). Cardiovascular and ischemic heart disease mortality had similar patterns as total mortality, being lower among drinkers but higher among those who reported binge drinking.
The key finding of this study is that there are divergent effects on mortality of the frequency of drinking and the amount of alcohol consumed per occasion. While the results for this study may reflect a certain Northern European pattern of drinking (not frequent but heavy on each occasion), they may not apply to other European or North American populations, where drinking is more frequent but binge drinking less common.
Nevertheless, the results of this study support results typically found in more moderately drinking populations: More frequent drinking, but smaller amounts per occasion, is the pattern of alcohol consumption associated with the lowest risk of mortality. Both aspects of drinking must be considered when studying the relation of alcohol to mortality.
To read the full critique, click here.
These critiques are released with the kind permission of ISFAR.
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