International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 124: The J-Shaped Curve for the Relation of Alcohol Consumption to Mortality
By International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research | 17 September 2013
The latest critique by The ISFAR looks at research linking alcohol consumption to mortality
An analysis based on data from more than 110,000 subjects in the US, of whom 3,364 died during a follow-up period of up to nine years, was used to evaluate the relation of “heavy drinking” and “non-heavy drinking” to the risk of all-cause mortality.
The authors defined heavy drinking as five or more drinks per occasion, and recorded the frequency in which subjects consumed such amounts. Subjects consuming less than five drinks per occasion were classified as non-heavy drinkers, which is rather higher than most medical definitions of moderation, of up to three drinks.
The key findings of the analyses were that there was a positive and linear increase in risk of mortality for subjects consuming heavy amounts of alcohol, with the risk increasing as drinking at this level was more frequent. For non-heavy drinkers (up to five drinks), there was a J-shaped relation with mortality. The point at which the non-heavy drinkers’ risk of mortality exceeded that of abstainers was between four and five drinking occasions per week.
Forum reviewers thought that this was a well-done analysis that emphasises the importance of the pattern of drinking, and not just the average weekly intake.
Although the upper limits of drinks per occasion exceeded that usually considered as “moderate”, a J-shaped curve between alcohol and mortality for these drinkers was still demonstrated. This is the pattern usually seen in prospective epidemiologic studies when “moderate” is defined at somewhat lower levels of alcohol intake.
Forum reviewers agreed with the conclusions of the authors regarding the importance of considering the pattern of drinking when evaluating the health effects of alcohol.
The authors concluded: “Promoting less harmful drinking patterns by reducing heavy drinking frequency is an appropriate harm reduction strategy, and assessing drinking pattern by determining the frequency of heavy and non-heavy drinking is a simple and fast way to determine risk and promote less risky drinking behaviour.”
To read the full critique, click here.
These critiques are published with the permission of The ISFAR.
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