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Occasional Binge Drinking Contributes to Coronary Heart Disease

A new study suggests that the “benefits” of moderate drinking may disappear when people start binge drinking, even occasionally. Michael Roerecke of the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues collected data from 14 previous studies of moderate drinkers and found that those who occasionally binge-drink are 45 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease, which can be fatal.

Occasional heavy drinking is defined as having five or more drinks in a day at least 12 times per year. The researchers excluded “regular” heavy drinkers, or those who had an average of five drinks per day.

Recent studies have suggests that having one or two drinks per day may promote heart health—but this study suggests that binge drinking even occasionally may undo any heart benefits of lighter drinking. Regular heavy drinking can lead to high blood pressure, increased blood clots, and heart rhythm disturbances.

For the study, Roerecke and his colleague Jurgen Rehm combined data from 14 international studies conducted between 1982 and 2006. Four of the studies compared 2,171 heart disease patients with 3,475 people without heart disease. Ten of the studies followed participants over time, documenting new cases of heart disease.

The current study included 1,637 cases of coronary heart disease among more than 50,000 drinkers. This type of study is called an observational study, and cannot prove cause and effect, but can suggest associations. In this case, there was an association between occasional heavy drinking and risk of heart disease.

Roerecke said that people should avoid binge drinking altogether, not only due to potential heart problems but also because of immediate risks like accidents, violence, and unprotected sex.

Other ways to promote heart health are regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and eating a balanced diet.

Source: Reuters Health, Amy Norton, Occasional binges may undo alcohol's heart benefits, February 18, 2010

Posted on February 19th, 2010
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

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