Page last updated: Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Occasional binges may undo alcohol’s heart benefits

A recent study suggests that the heart health benefits of moderate drinking are undone when drinkers occasionally drink heavily.
Pooling data from 14 previous studies of moderate drinkers, researchers found that those who drank heavily occasionally were 45 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease. (Occasional heavy drinking was defined as having five or more standard drinks in a day at least a dozen times per year. “Regular” heavy drinkers -- those who averaged at least five drinks per day, were excluded from the analysis).
The findings show that even when people typically drink moderately, occasional heavy drinking may boost heart risks - at least when compared with modest drinking alone, as the study did not look at abstainers.
The observational study by Roerecke and colleague Jurgen Rehm combined data from 14 international studies conducted between 1982 and 2006. Four studies compared a total of 2,171 heart disease patients with 3,475 people without heart disease. The other 10 followed participants over time, documenting new cases of heart disease; the current analysis included 1,637 cases of coronary heart disease among more than 50,000 drinkers from those studies.
The findings support what other studies’ findings that binge drinking is detrimental to heart health. Roerecke said it is best for drinkers to avoid binges altogether -- not only because of the possible heart effects, but also because of more-immediate risks, like accidents and violence.

Source: Irregular Heavy Drinking Occasions and Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Michael Roerecke and Jürgen Rehm. American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 8, 2010.

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