Binge Drinking Habits Raises Heart Disease Risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Researchers warn binge drinking can increase the chances of heart disease, found in a study that compared drinking habits in Belfast and France. Drinking larger amounts of alcohol on one day of the week may was associated with increased heart disease.

The study, called the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME), found weekly drinking consumption is the same for both countries, but in Belfast, alcohol is consumed more quickly – over a two to three day period, whereas in France imbibing occurs throughout the week. The two countries have different rates of heart disease, prompting the researchers to investigate the disparity.

Heart Disease Risk Double from Binge Drinking

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The authors write, “We found that alcohol consumption patterns differed radically in the two countries: in Belfast most men's alcohol intake was concentrated on one day of the weekend (Saturday), whereas in the three French centres studied alcohol consumption was spread more evenly throughout the entire week.” They say the prevalence of binge drinking was 20 times higher in Belfast than in France, leading to double the risk of ischemic heart disease.

Binge drinking was defined as consuming more than 50g (four to five drinks) or a half pint of beer quaffed on one day on a weekend.

The researchers say the study has public health implications given that binge drinking is on the rise among young people. The study shows the possible danger for heart health from patterns of alcohol consumption versus drinking throughout the week in moderation. The authors say there may also be an association between the types of alcohol. In France, wine is more popular than beer that is widely drunk in Belfast.

BMJ 2010; 341:c6077

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