Latest scientific news 25 March 2014

Binge drinking increases mortality risk among moderate drinkers

The drinking pattern counts!…Among older moderate drinkers, those who engaged in occasional heavy drinking had a significantly increased total mortality risk compared to regular moderate drinkers.

For several decades, researchers have realized that the pattern of drinking – regular versus binge drinking – determines whether the consumption of alcoholic beverages has net risks or benefits regarding health and mortality. Thus, analysing moderate drinking and total mortality risk and focusing on average consumption can mask diverse underlying drinking pattern, i.e. among individuals with a moderate average consumption, drinking may vary from a regular moderate consumption pattern to weekend binge drinking. A recent study examined the association between episodic heavy drinking and total mortality among moderate drinkers aged 55-65. Those moderate drinkers who engaged in occasional binge drinking had a 2x higher risk to die during the 20-year follow-up period.

Thus, the researchers concluded that episodic heavy drinking – even when average consumption remains moderate – is a significant public health concern.

Holahan CJ, Schutte KK, Brennan PL, et al. Episodic Heavy Drinking and 20-Year Total Mortality Among Late-Life Moderate Drinkers. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2014 Mar 3. [Epub ahead of print]