14 November 2012 In Drinking & Driving

Dietary ethanol (alcohol) is the most widely consumed drug worldwide. High levels of mortality, morbidity, and social malaise are associated with abuse of alcohol, and increasing numbers of women and youth are abusing alcohol. However, strong epidemiological data demonstrate a U- or J-shaped relationship between volume of alcohol consumed and all-cause mortality or disease burden. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality and disease burden than are abstinence and immoderate drinking. A brief review of the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of ethanol is provided with a discussion of the impact of gender differences. Potential mechanisms by which ethanol, ethanol metabolites, and (or) phytochemicals, as associated with different types of ethanol-containing beverages, are discussed in regards to the beneficial and detrimental impacts they may have on physiological system functioning and mortality or disease burden. Per capita consumption of ethanol-containing beverages varies across geo-political regions worldwide. A more recent research focus is the impact of consumption patterns on consumption volumes as they relate to disease and mortality. Certain drinking patterns moderate overall volume of ethanol consumption. Thus, an emerging approach to the study of alcohol consumption in populations is to consider both the volume and pattern of consumption as they relate to mortality and disease burden. Alcohol consumption patterns among athletes are discussed; physiological implications of alcohol abuse in this population are outlined. Current guidelines for the consumption of alcohol are reviewed. Alcohol consumption guidelines reflect the current scientific understanding of both the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption and the detriments of immoderate alcohol consumption.

 

14 November 2012 In Drinking & Driving
A meta-analysis of 6 studies found that regular drinkers of alcoholic beverages have a reduced coronary heart disease (CHD) risk compared to abstainers while irregular drinkers have an increased risk. This investigation suggests that binge and heavy irregular drinking modify the favourable effect of alcohol intake on CHD risk.
 

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the strength of the evidence provided by epidemiological literature investigating drinking pattern as effect modifier of alcohol intake on the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

DESIGN: Meta-analysis of observational studies.

DATA SOURCES: Medline, citation tracking, from 1966 to 2006. Review methods: Original studies investigating the amount of alcohol intake, combined with the frequency of alcohol consumption and/or pattern of alcohol drinking affecting the risk of CHD were extracted. Among them, cohort and case-control studies reporting sufficient data to perform statistical analyses and using people who abstained from alcohol as the reference were included.

RESULTS: Six (4 cohort and 2 case-control) out of 118 studies reviewed met the inclusion criteria. Compared with those who abstained from alcohol, regular heavy drinkers and heavy irregular or binge drinkers showed significantly different pooled relative risks of 0.75 (95% confidence interval 0.64 to 0.89) and 1.10 (1.03 to 1.17) respectively. The dose-response relation between the amount of alcohol intake and CHD risk was significantly different in regular and irregular drinkers. A J-shaped curve, with nadir around 28 grams of alcohol per week, and last protective dose of 131 grams per week, was obtained including drinkers who consumed alcohol for 2 days a week or less. Conversely, in people who consumed alcohol for more than 2 days a week a significant protective effect was seen even when drinking high amounts of alcohol.

CONCLUSION: This meta-analysis suggests that binge and heavy irregular drinking modify the favourable effect of alcohol intake on the CHD risk. However, this conclusion should be taken with caution because of the small number of studies considered.

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