Don’t save your alcohol units until the weekend

wineA study comparing patterns of alcohol consumption in Northern Ireland and France found that the binge drinkers of Belfast were at a much greater risk of heart disease.  The choice of beer or wine may also be important.

The volume of alcohol consumed by middle aged men in Northern Ireland and France is almost identical. However, in Belfast, the alcohol is all consumed within one or two days at the weekend. Drinkers in France tend to consume the same amount over a whole week.

The researchers, led by Dr Jean-Bernard Ruidavets from Toulouse University, investigated whether drinking patterns in Northern Ireland and France were linked to the known disparity in heart disease between these two culturally diverse countries.

In the study, binge drinking was defined as drinking more than 4- 5 drinks over a short period, where a drink equates to a 125ml glass of wine or half pint of beer.

Over a ten year period, Ruidavets and colleagues assessed the alcohol consumption of 9,758 men from three centres in France (Lille, Strasbourg and Toulouse) and Belfast. The participants were free from heart disease when the research started in 1991 and were between the ages of 50 to 59.

The participants were divided into never drinkers, former drinkers, regular drinkers and binge drinkers. The ‘drinkers’ were asked via interviews and questionnaires about the volume of alcohol they consumed on a weekly and daily basis and also about the type of beverage.

The results show that the men who “binge” drink had nearly twice the risk of heart attack or death from heart disease compared to regular drinkers over the 10 years of follow up.

The researchers write: “the prevalence of binge drinking, which doubled the risk of ischaemic heart disease compared with regular drinking, was almost 20 times higher in Belfast than in the French centres.”

The drink of choice in both countries may also play a role; beer and spirits are most commonly consumed in Northern Ireland, with wine being France’s preferred tipple. Established research has concluded that drinking a moderate about of wine can protect against heart disease.

Ruidavets and colleagues conclude that the research has important public health implications, especially given that binge drinking is on the rise amongst younger people in Mediterranean countries.

They say: “The alcohol industry takes every opportunity to imbue alcohol consumption with the positive image, emphasising its beneficial effects on ischaemic heart disease risk, but people also need to be informed about the health consequences of heavy drinking.”

Read the full paper below;
http://www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.c6077

Brits overtake Russians in binge drinking league

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London: Alcohol consumption in Britain continues to grow with the Brits now drinking more than Russians, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation. In addition teenage drinkers in the UK are the drunks of Europe.

WHO figures show that the average Brit drinks 9.29 litres of alcohol each year, compared with 8.87 in Russia.

Luxembourg is in No1 place, followed by the Czech Republic, Estonia and Germany, with the UK 17 and Russia 18 in the league table of drinkers.

The data reveal that in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, England came top of a European table for drunkenness among 11- and 13-year olds, with twice the levels in Russia.

The increase in drinking is linked the decrease in people setting down to traditional adult responsibilities, such as marriage, say the authors pf a report due to be published in May from the International Center for Alcohol Policies, a Washington-based group.

The study, Swimming with Crocodiles: The Culture of Extreme Drinking, also cites World Health Organisation figures showing that almost twice as many English 15-year-olds as Russians claim to have been drunk more than twice.

In the UK, for example, the number of adults still living with their parents has risen by a fifth among men and almost a third among women in 15 years. About 60% of men and 40% of women aged 20-24 live with their parents.

Diets high in fat encourage binge eating

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Chicago: People who eat a high-fat diet are more likely to binge eat at night, according to scientists at the Northwestern University.

Their esearch reveals that over-eating will alter the body’s internal clock, which regulates when we sleep, wake and feel hungry.

The conclusion was made after studying the reactions of mice fed on only high-fat foods. After two weeks, they exhibited an interference with their internal clocks, causing them to eat extra food when they should have been either asleep or at rest.

Prof Joe Bass, who led the research, said: “We found that as an animal on a high-fat diet gains weight it eats at the inappropriate time for its sleep and wake cycle all of the excess calories are consumed when the animal should be resting.

“For a human, that would be like raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night and bingeing on junk food.”

The study, published in the Cell Metabolism journal also reveals that starting a high-fat diet increases the propensity for obesity because the body’s metabolism is disrupted and eating patterns become irregular.

Free guide to identifying alcohol abuse

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London: A valuable guide, designed to help identify substance abuse in loved ones, is now available. ‘Beginning RecoveryÂ’ is the title of the new guide, published by Winthrop Hall – the UKÂ’s only purpose built drug and alcohol treatment centre.

Coping with the stresses and strains of modern living can be a test for the toughest of resolves. Some find themselves unable to cope with work pressures, financial problems or family difficulties, and find themselves pushed over the edge, forced to seek solace in alcohol and other substances. You can get the leaflet free from Winthrop Hall

Research carried out by the Greater London Alcohol and Drug Alliance* found that 21% of adult Londoners are harmful users of alcohol, and 1% of LondonÂ’s 7.5 million population are problematic drug users. According to Alcohol Concern*, between 58-60% of 11-15 year olds drink alcohol, with the mean consumption for those who drink doubling from 5 units a week in the early 1990s to 10 units in 2004. By the age of 13, the proportion of those who drink exceeds the proportion of teenagers who do not drink.

This yearÂ’s Statistics on Drug Misuse* reports that men are more likely to take illicit drugs than women – 13.7% took drugs in the last year compared with 7.4% of women. Alarmingly, during 2005/06 181,390 people were in contact with structured drug treatment services. This is a 13% increase on figures during 2004/05, where the number was 160,453 and more than twice the number in 1998/99.

For many, the problem is not obvious. However, there may be a number of noticeable changes that are out-of-character.

Symptoms to look out for:
1. Changes in behaviour or routine – missing appointments, coming home late, going out at odd times
2. Evasiveness and vagueness
3. Mood swings – irritability, aggression, depression or euphoria
4. Taking less pride in appearance, poor skin or a weight loss problem
5. Hand tremors and regular sweats
6. Increased secretiveness or lack of openness, even lying
7. Changes in finances, running out of money or money going missing

All of these symptoms can point to a crisis. ItÂ’s not always easy for the user to admit they have a problem, and trying to help can often lead to confrontation. People sometimes think they can resolve the problem themselves without proper treatment, but if self-help with the support of friends and family has not worked, then professional help is the answer.

ItÂ’s important to remember that help is always at hand – but itÂ’s getting the right help that counts. A copy of the ‘Beginning RecoveryÂ’ guide, offering practical advice on recognising symptoms plus information for getting treatment for substance abuse, is available by calling Winthrop Hall on + 44 (0)1580 894334.

Other support organisations include:
The National Alcohol Helpline: 0800 917 8282
Alcoholics Anonymous: 0845 769 7555
FRANK: The National Drug Helpline: 0800 776600

* source:
Greater London Alcohol and Drug Alliance – London: The Highs and the Lows 2 (January 2007)
Alcohol Concern – Young People’s Drinking, Factsheet
Statistics on Drug Misuse, England 2007 – The Information Centre www.ic.nhs.uk

For more details on Winthrop Hall, call 01580 894334.

Drinking culture leads to increase in alcohol deaths

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London: The growing drinking culture is leading to the number of women dying from alcohol abuse.

Drink-related deaths among women aged between 35 and 54 have soared to almost twice the level they were in the early 1990s, according to new research.

Around 14 women per 100,000 in this age group now die from alcohol-induced conditions, such as liver failure according to figures from the Office of National Statistics.

Alcohol is to blame for the deaths of more than 8,000 men and women a year, compared with just over 4,000 in 1991.

Thirty years ago, the death rate for men and women of any age from alcohol abuse stood as just two per 100,000, the lowest in Europe.

The drinking culture also appears to have children in its grip.

A recent Government- commissioned study found that one in five 15-year-olds drinks the equivalent of almost a bottle of wine a week. In some parts of the country, one in eight 12-year-olds is drinking as much. Binge drinking plays a part in more than 4,300 teenage pregnancies and 5.5million lost days of schooling each year.

The nation’s addiction to alcohol takes an average of seven months off the life of every man and woman and is responsible for more than half a million hospital admissions a year, the report by the Centre of Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University found.

Drunkenness is to also blame for more than half a million crimes each year, from violent brawls to robberies and sexual assaults. More than a million men down more than 50 units of alcohol a week.

Previous studies have shown that every day, 15 boys and girls under 16 drink themselves into hospital accident and emergency departments.

Doctors have said that 12-year-olds are being diagnosed as alcoholics and that cirrhosis of the liver – an alcohol-induced problem – is being found in teenagers.

1 in 5 thinks their partner drinks too much

London: One in five of those in relationships in the UK (1) thinks their partner drinks too much, according to new research exploring whether alcohol has more of an impact on relationships than couples might think.

The ICM survey of 1000 people (2) was commissioned for the GovernmentÂ’s new Know Your Limits campaign, which launched in October to encourage responsible drinking.

Sadly alcohol and arguments do seem to mix, with one in four (25%) admitting to having rows when they drink. This is particularly the case with 18 to 24 year olds: half of them (49%) admitted that they row with their partner after drinking alcohol. This is also true for one third (37%) of 35 to 44 year olds.

What are the arguments about?

1. ‘Anything and everything’- 35%
2. The behaviour of either partner – 31%
3. Money – 14%
4. The children – 12%
5. Domestic chores – 11%
6. The fact that your partner is drinking – 10%
7. The in-laws – 5%

More than a third of 18 to 24 year olds (37%) say that their partnersÂ’ behaviour is the biggest cause for their arguments when drinking. This is also true for 35 to 44 year olds (29%). However, amongst the older age groups the likes of children and domestic chores rise up the agenda.

Making up

Most couples resolve arguments and move on – at least until another one brews the next time they start drinking. However, 10% said that they never resolve the arguments; and 11% let the argument escalate and just ignore each other – but eventually make up.

For those that did resolve them quickly, there were two popular options:

Take a step back, calm down and look for a compromise

Agree that alcohol is blurring the issue and drop it until the next day

Commenting on the results, Srabani Sen of Alcohol Concern said:

“Too much alcohol can affect people who might otherwise think things were fine, with either their or their partner’s drinking. We’re beginning to realise though that alcohol misuse not only causes physical harm, but can also blight relationships. People need to be able to recognise the negative impact alcohol might be having on their lives and try to cut down to safer levels.”

Relate counsellor Denise Knowles said:

“Couples should be able to openly discuss their feelings about their partners’ drinking habits if they feel it’s ever a cause for concern. Learning how to discuss issues effectively is a key element of a healthy relationship.”

Know Your Limits is a joint Department of Health and Home Office campaign which encourages people to drink responsibly and get to know their limits. Men should not regularly drink more than 3 to 4 units a day, and women should not regularly drink more than 2 to 3 units a day. Consistently drinking 4 or more units for men (and 3 or more for women) is not advised because of the progressive health risk it carries.

In addition, women who are trying to conceive, or who are at any stage of pregnancy, should not drink more than 1 to 2 units once or twice a week and should avoid getting drunk. Know Your Limits recognises that drinking can be enjoyable, but also emphasises the undesirable consequences of drinking too much, such as arguments with loved ones, getting into fights or being in a vulnerable situation on a night out.

The research backs up the popular perception that men drink more alcohol than women. More than half of the women (56%) drink less than their partner, and half of the men (51%) admitted they drink more than their partner. In fact, 28% of the men confessed that their partner tells them as much. However, 9% of couples feel their partnerÂ’s drinking is a subject they couldnÂ’t easily talk about.

1 Taken from the survey base where people were both in a relationship, and their partner drinks alcohol

2 ICM interviewed a random sample of 1000 adults aged 18 plus by telephone across the UK between 17th–19th November 2006. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.icmresearch.co.uk

Alcohol facts

Alcohol is a major cause of disease and injury: it accounts for 9.2% of years of life lost/lived with disabilities.

Alcohol misuse costs the NHS around ÂŁ1.6 billion every year, mainly in the acute sector.

The estimated annual NHS spend on specialist alcohol treatment is ÂŁ217 million with 65,000 people receiving treatment.

17% of victims of sexual assault surveyed in the British Crime Survey Interpersonal Violence Module 2001 said that the offence took place when they were incapable of consent due to alcohol.

Regular visitors to pubs and bars are twice as likely to be victims of assault
Half of all violent crimes are linked to alcohol

An agreement was made in June 2006 between the Government, Drinks Industry and health stakeholders to set up the Drinkaware Trust. This new charitable Trust will be funded by the drinks industry and is aimed at positively changing the UKÂ’s drinking culture and tackling alcohol-related harm.

For further information see www.knowyourlimits.gov.uk

About Relate

Relate is working to promote health, respect and justice in couple and family relationships

RelateÂ’s services extend beyond couple counselling to family counselling, counselling for young people, online counselling, sex therapy and relationship skills workshops

Relate works in schools, primary care settings, prisons, and with local authorities on homelessness prevention services
Relate supports 150,000 people each year in over 600 locations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

This year Couple Counselling Scotland changed its name to Relate Scotland which remains a separate charity yet operates with shared standards and in close partnership with Relate

For more information and advice visit: www.relate.org.uk

Heavy drinking shrinks the brain

Washington:US researchers have revealed that heavy, chronic drinking can cause significant damage to a part of the brain structure which is vital to learning and memory.

Their study reveals that the volume of hippocampal tissue in the brain reduces over the years in heavy drinkers.

The researchers examined the effect of alcohol on the hippocampus and found that heavy drinking can reduce total hippocampus volume, which likely reflects a loss of hippocampal tissue substance.

“The hippocampus actually refers to two structures, the right hippocampus and the left hippocampus that are located in the right and left temporal lobes of the brain. Most scientists think that the hippocampus helps the brain manage learning, especially learning and remembering new things or things that happened recently. Before this study, researchers had noticed that the volume of the hippocampus seemed to be smaller in people who frequently drank large amounts of alcohol for long periods of time.” explained Thomas P. Beresford, Department of Veterans Affairs physician, and professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to compare hippocampus volumes among non-alcoholics and heavy drinkers.

Study results indicated a reduction in total hippocampus volume among the alcoholics.

“When we took a picture of the alcoholic brains using MRI, and measured the hippocampus,” said Beresford, “it was much smaller than the hippocampus in the group of people who did not drink alcohol heavily. This means that alcohol appears to injure the hippocampus by itself. That is, it may harm the hippocampus in a way that other things do not.”

The findings of the study could explain some of the memory impairment and cognitive deficits described in chronic alcoholics, but it is not clear whether the effect is reversible.

“This study is only a first step. We are now studying what happens to the hippocampus in heavy drinkers when they stop drinking, whether the hippocampus heals itself or not, and what we might do to help healing along. Since the hippocampus is connected to many other parts of the brain, it is difficult to know all of the things that it does. Most scientists think that injury to the hippocampus makes it harder to learn things, especially to keep memories of new things or of new patterns. Understanding this, and how alcohol-dependent individuals may cope and even heal, is the point of our research,” he said.

The results of the study are published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Binge drinking increases stroke risk, say doctors

London: Binge drinkers double their risk of suffering a stroke, say doctors. But two out of three people questioned in a survey were unaware that binge drinking can trigger the condition.

The Stroke Association report also shows that one in two adults will binge drink over Christmas and they are twice as likely to suffer than those who don’t drink.

Jon Barrick, chief executive of the association, said: ‘Anyone can have a stroke, so binge drinkers are increasing their risk of an attack.

‘People are clearly aware that they should exercise control over the amount of alcohol they consume, but over half of those surveyed reveal they still binge drink on an average night out.

‘If this leads to a stroke, it could have extremely seriously consequences such as long-term disabilities or even death.’

Every year 130,000 people have a stroke, with 10,000 under retirement age, while nearly 60,000 people will die as a result.

The latest warning comes as European statistics, due to be released next week, show teenage girls have for the first time overtaken boys in the levels of UK binge drinking.

The Stroke Association survey of 1,909 adults across the UK found a lack of understanding among the public about what constitutes binge drinking.

Three quarters underestimated the recommended daily limits of alcohol for men and women, with just 22 per cent understanding the daily limits of between three and four units for men and two and three units for women.

Around half said they drank four or more alcoholic drinks – six units – which constitutes binge drinking, but only 29 per cent considered themselves to be a binger.

The survey also found that young people aged between 25 and 34 were most likely to consume 10 or more alcoholic drinks a night.

Just 40 per cent thought binge drinking could lead to a stroke, with the majority worried about dehydration and liver damage.

And 57 per cent of those surveyed said they planned to binge drink over the Christmas period.

Meanwhile, an advertising campaign unveiled on Wednesday by drinks watchdog the Portman Group is targeting female binge drinkers.