Latest scientific news 13 February 2014

Drinking patterns do matter

Moderate intake of alcoholic beverages has been related to a lower mortality rate. However, there is more to it than the amount of alcohol. Spanish scientists examined the drinking patterns and concluded that the traditional Mediterranean drinking habits are associated with a lower risk of mortality.

Researchers from the University of Navarra (Spain) have investigated the association between the overall alcohol drinking patterns and all-cause mortality in more than 18 000 participants for up to 12 years.

The Mediterranean alcohol drinking pattern (MADP) includes:

  • a moderate intake of alcoholic beverages,
  • alcohol intake spread over the week,
  • low spirit consumption,
  • a preference for wine,
  • red wine consumption,
  • wine consumed during meals, and
  • avoidance of binge drinking.

The MADP was assessed using a 0-9 point score to rate the conformity to the traditional MADP.

For example:

  • a positive score of 2 points was reached, if the consumption was moderate (10-50g/d for men and 5-25g/d for women),
  • 1 point, if the proportion of alcohol derived from wine was at least 75% and another point, if the wine was consumed with meals.

For each 2-point increment in the score of adhering to a MADP, they observed a 25% reduction in the mortality risk. Every single aspect of the MADP seemed to have a similar influence on the inverse association with the mortality risk. For abstainers, the mortality rate was 82% higher than in those individuals following all aspects of a MADP. The scientists found an inverse association between the preference for wine and mortality, independently of other aspects of the Mediterranean alcohol drinking pattern. They concluded that following an overall healthy alcohol drinking pattern was associated with a reduced mortality risk compared to abstinence or departing from this pattern.

This is the first study assessing the overall alcohol drinking pattern to comprehensively account for different aspects beyond the amount of total alcohol intake.

Gea A et al, Mediterranean alcohol-drinking pattern and mortality in the SUN (Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra) Project: a prospective cohort study, Br J Nutr 2014, p. 1-10