22 February 2019 In Drinking & Driving

BACKGROUND: Drink driving is an important risk factor for road traffic accidents (RTAs), which cause high levels of morbidity and mortality globally. Lowering the permitted blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers is a common public health intervention that is enacted in countries and jurisdictions across the world. In Scotland, on Dec 5, 2014, the BAC limit for drivers was reduced from 0.08 g/dL to 0.05 g/dL. We therefore aimed to evaluate the effects of this change on RTAs and alcohol consumption.

METHODS: In this natural experiment, we used an observational, comparative interrupted time-series design by use of data on RTAs and alcohol consumption in Scotland (the interventional group) and England and Wales (the control group). We obtained weekly counts of RTAs from police accident records and we estimated weekly off-trade (eg, in supermarkets and convenience stores) and 4-weekly on-trade (eg, in bars and restaurants) alcohol consumption from market research data. We also used data from automated traffic counters as denominators to calculate RTA rates. We estimated the effect of the intervention on RTAs by use of negative binomial panel regression and on alcohol consumption outcomes by use of seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average models. Our primary outcome was weekly rates of RTAs in Scotland, England, and Wales. This study is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN38602189.

FINDINGS: We assessed the weekly rate of RTAs and alcohol consumption between Jan 1, 2013, and Dec 31, 2016, before and after the BAC limit came into effect on Dec 5, 2014. After the reduction in BAC limits for drivers in Scotland, we found no significant change in weekly RTA rates after adjustment for seasonality and underlying temporal trend (rate ratio 1.01, 95% CI 0.94-1.08; p=0.77) or after adjustment for seasonality, the underlying temporal trend, and the driver characteristics of age, sex, and socioeconomic deprivation (1.00, 0.96-1.06; p=0.73). Relative to RTAs in England and Wales, where the reduction in BAC limit for drivers did not occur, we found a 7% increase in weekly RTA rates in Scotland after this reduction in BAC limit for drivers (1.07, 1.02-1.13; p=0.007 in the fully-adjusted model). Similar findings were observed for serious or fatal RTAs and single-vehicle night-time RTAs. The change in legislation in Scotland was associated with no change in alcohol consumption, measured by per-capita off-trade sales (-0.3%, -1.7 to 1.1; p=0.71), but a 0.7% decrease in alcohol consumption measured by per-capita on-trade sales (-0.7%, -0.8 to -0.5; p<0.0001).

INTERPRETATION: Lowering the driving BAC limit to 0.05 g/dL from 0.08 g/dL in Scotland was not associated with a reduction in RTAs, but this change was associated with a small reduction in per-capita alcohol consumption from on-trade alcohol sales. One plausible explanation is that the legislative change was not suitably enforced-for example with random breath testing measures. Our findings suggest that changing the legal BAC limit for drivers in isolation does not improve RTA outcomes. These findings have significant policy implications internationally as several countries and jurisdictions consider a similar reduction in the BAC limit for drivers.

FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme.

25 January 2019 In Cardiovascular System

BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD), with moderate drinkers having decreased CVD risk compared to non- and heavy drinkers. However, whether alcohol consumption is associated with ideal cardiovascular health (CVH), assessed by the American Heart Association's (AHA) Life's Simple 7 (LS7) metrics, and whether associations differ by sex, is uncertain.

HYPOTHESIS: Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with worse CVH.

METHODS: We explored associations between alcohol consumption and CVH in a multi-ethnic population including 6506 participants free of CVD, aged 45 to 84 years. Each LS7 metric was scored 0 to 2 points. Total score was categorized as inadequate (0-8), average (9-10) and optimal (11-14). Participants were classified as never, former or current drinkers. Current drinkers were categorized as 2 (heavy) drinks/day. Multinomial logistic regression models assessed associations between alcohol and CVH, adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, income, and health insurance.

RESULTS: Mean (SD) age was 62 (10) years, 53% were women. Compared to never drinkers, those with >2 drinks/day were less likely to have average [0.61 (0.43-0.87)] and optimal CVH [0.29 (0.17-0.49)]. Binge drinking was also associated with unfavorable CVH. Overall, there was no independent association for light or moderate drinking with CVH. However, women with 1 to 2 drinks/day were more likely to have optimal CVH [1.85 (1.19-2.88)] compared to non-drinking women, which was not seen in men.

CONCLUSION: Heavy alcohol consumption was associated with unfavorable CVH. Although light or moderate drinking may be associated with a more favorable CVH in women, overall, the association was not strong.

25 January 2019 In Cardiovascular System

Coronary artery calcification (CAC) is associated with atherosclerotic complications. However, elevated CAC may not always imply a worse prognosis. Herein, we report the clinical evolution of long-term red wine (RW) drinkers in relation to CAC. We followed 200 healthy male habitual RW drinkers and compared them to 154 abstainers for a period of 5.5 years. The initial evaluation included coronary computed tomography angiography (CTA), clinical, demographics, and laboratory data. CAC was quantified by the Agatston score. The follow-up process was conducted by telephone calls and/or hospital record review. The composite end-point of total death, acute myocardial infarction (AMI), or coronary revascularization (or major adverse cardiac event - MACE) was assessed. The RW drinkers ingested 28.9+/-15 g of alcohol/day for 23.4+/-12.3 years. They had higher high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein, but lower C-reactive protein than abstainers. Age, total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and liver enzymes were similar. History of diabetes was lower among drinkers, but other risk factors were similar. However, drinkers had higher CAC than abstainers; the mean value was 131.5+/-362 in drinkers vs 40.5+/-320 in abstainers (P<0.001). The median and interquartile range were 15 (0.0-131.5) in RW drinkers and 1 (0.0-40.5) in abstainers (P=0.003). During the follow-up, MACE was significantly lower in drinkers than in abstainers, despite their higher CAC. The difference was driven mainly by AMI (0 vs 6; P<0.03). Greater CAC values in this setting did not predict worse prognosis. A possible underlying mechanism is lesion calcification, which leads to plaque stabilization and less clinical events.

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