05 December 2018 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Problem drinking carries significant health burdens, including an increased risk of hypertension. The effect of chronic alcohol intake on blood pressure (BP) in women is understudied and poorly understood.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to examine the relationships between drinking habits and BP in hypertensive women.

METHODS: We analyzed drinking habits in 113 women followed in the Brigham and Women's Hospital Hypertension Clinic for at least one year.

RESULTS: Among these women with well-controlled hypertension, baseline diastolic BP was significantly lower in moderate drinkers compared with women who rarely or never drank. Changes in both systolic and diastolic BP over 12 months showed a significant negative association with changes in percent drinking days. In contrast, there was a trend toward higher baseline systolic BP among those women who consumed more drinks per drinking day.

CONCLUSIONS: Among these women with controlled hypertension, our data failed to demonstrate an association between drinking beyond recommended limits and higher disease burden. These findings parallel the widely reported difference between drinking frequency, associated with a host of positive health outcomes, and drinking intensity, associated with negative outcomes. Novel to this report is an observed reduction in blood pressure over the one-year follow-up period accompanying an increased drinking frequency in treated hypertensive women. Cautions include the suggestion that a greater number of drinks per drinking day was associated with higher baseline pressure. These data imply that drinking within sensible limits has no negative impact on chronic hypertension. In fact, for women with well-controlled hypertension, such a habit may impart benefit.

29 October 2018 In Liver Disease

INTRODUCTION: It is unclear whether low levels of alcohol are harmful in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We aimed to determine whether quantity, binge pattern consumption, or type of alcohol was associated with liver fibrosis in patients with NAFLD.

METHODS: Previous and current alcohol consumption was assessed in NAFLD patients undergoing liver biopsy. All subjects currently consumed /=4 standard drinks (female) or >/=5 standard drinks (male) in one sitting. Liver biopsies were scored according to the NASH CRN system with F3/4 fibrosis defined as advanced.

RESULTS: Among 187 patients (24% with advanced fibrosis), the median weekly alcohol consumption was 20 (2.3-60) g over an average of 18 years. Modest consumption (1-70 g per week) was associated with lower mean fibrosis stage compared to lifetime abstainers (p < 0.05) and a decreased risk of advanced fibrosis (OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.14-0.78, p = 0.01). The association with reduced fibrosis was not seen in subjects drinking in a binge-type fashion. Exclusive wine drinkers but not exclusive beer drinkers, had lower mean fibrosis stage and lower odds of advanced fibrosis (OR 0.20, 95% CI 0.06-0.69, p = 0.01), compared to lifetime abstinent subjects. No interaction between gender and alcohol quantity, type, or binge consumption on fibrosis was observed.

DISCUSSION: Modest (1-70 g per week) alcohol consumption, particularly wine in a non-binge pattern, is associated with lower fibrosis in patients with NAFLD. Prospective longitudinal studies into fibrosis progression, cardiovascular outcomes, and mortality are required before clinical recommendations can be made.

06 September 2018 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death and disability, but its overall association with health remains complex given the possible protective effects of moderate alcohol consumption on some conditions. With our comprehensive approach to health accounting within the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2016, we generated improved estimates of alcohol use and alcohol-attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 195 locations from 1990 to 2016, for both sexes and for 5-year age groups between the ages of 15 years and 95 years and older.

METHODS: Using 694 data sources of individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use, we produced estimates of the prevalence of current drinking, abstention, the distribution of alcohol consumption among current drinkers in standard drinks daily (defined as 10 g of pure ethyl alcohol), and alcohol-attributable deaths and DALYs. We made several methodological improvements compared with previous estimates: first, we adjusted alcohol sales estimates to take into account tourist and unrecorded consumption; second, we did a new meta-analysis of relative risks for 23 health outcomes associated with alcohol use; and third, we developed a new method to quantify the level of alcohol consumption that minimises the overall risk to individual health.

FINDINGS: Globally, alcohol use was the seventh leading risk factor for both deaths and DALYs in 2016, accounting for 2·2% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 1·5-3·0) of age-standardised female deaths and 6·8% (5·8-8·0) of age-standardised male deaths. Among the population aged 15-49 years, alcohol use was the leading risk factor globally in 2016, with 3·8% (95% UI 3·2-4·3) of female deaths and 12·2% (10·8-13·6) of male deaths attributable to alcohol use. For the population aged 15-49 years, female attributable DALYs were 2·3% (95% UI 2·0-2·6) and male attributable DALYs were 8·9% (7·8-9·9). The three leading causes of attributable deaths in this age group were tuberculosis (1·4% [95% UI 1·0-1·7] of total deaths), road injuries (1·2% [0·7-1·9]), and self-harm (1·1% [0·6-1·5]). For populations aged 50 years and older, cancers accounted for a large proportion of total alcohol-attributable deaths in 2016, constituting 27·1% (95% UI 21·2-33·3) of total alcohol-attributable female deaths and 18·9% (15·3-22·6) of male deaths. The level of alcohol consumption that minimised harm across health outcomes was zero (95% UI 0·0-0·8) standard drinks per week.

INTERPRETATION: Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero. These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.

06 September 2018 In Cardiovascular System

BACKGROUND: Studies have shown that alcohol intake trajectories differ in their associations with biomarkers of cardiovascular functioning, but it remains unclear if they also differ in their relationship to actual coronary heart disease (CHD) incidence. Using multiple longitudinal cohort studies, we evaluated the association between long-term alcohol consumption trajectories and CHD.

METHODS: Data were drawn from six cohorts (five British and one French). The combined analytic sample comprised 35,132 individuals (62.1% male; individual cohorts ranging from 869 to 14,247 participants) of whom 4.9% experienced an incident (fatal or non-fatal) CHD event. Alcohol intake across three assessment periods of each cohort was used to determine participants' intake trajectories over approximately 10 years. Time to onset for (i) incident CHD and (ii) fatal CHD was established using surveys and linked medical record data. A meta-analysis of individual participant data was employed to estimate the intake trajectories' association with CHD onset, adjusting for demographic and clinical characteristics.

RESULTS: Compared to consistently moderate drinkers (males: 1-168 g ethanol/week; females: 1-112 g ethanol/week), inconsistently moderate drinkers had a significantly greater risk of incident CHD [hazard ratio (HR) = 1.18, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.02-1.37]. An elevated risk of incident CHD was also found for former drinkers (HR = 1.31, 95% CI = 1.13-1.52) and consistent non-drinkers (HR = 1.47, 95% CI = 1.21-1.78), although, after sex stratification, the latter effect was only evident for females. When examining fatal CHD outcomes alone, only former drinkers had a significantly elevated risk, though hazard ratios for consistent non-drinkers were near identical. No evidence of elevated CHD risk was found for consistently heavy drinkers, and a weak association with fatal CHD for inconsistently heavy drinkers was attenuated following adjustment for confounding factors.

CONCLUSIONS: Using prospectively recorded alcohol data, this study has shown how instability in drinking behaviours over time is associated with risk of CHD. As well as individuals who abstain from drinking (long term or more recently), those who are inconsistently moderate in their alcohol intake have a higher risk of experiencing CHD. This finding suggests that policies and interventions specifically encouraging consistency in adherence to lower-risk drinking guidelines could have public health benefits in reducing the population burden of CHD. The absence of an effect amongst heavy drinkers should be interpreted with caution given the known wider health risks associated with such intake.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03133689

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