Alcohol causes weight gain and high blood pressure, with no benefit to heart, claims new study

Reducing consumption, even among light drinkers, can improve heart health, reduce body mass index, and bring down blood pressure.

According to a large new international study, even moderate drinking may not be good for the heart.
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The study defines light to moderate drinking as consuming 0.6 to 0.8 fluid ounces of alcohol a day, or 17 to 23 ml, which is roughly what a 175 ml glass of wine contains.

The 155 researchers – from the UK, continental Europe, North America, and Australia – analysed data about links between drinking habits and heart health from 56 epidemiological studies covering more than 260,000 people of European descent.

They found that people with a particular gene consumed 17% less alcohol per week, were less likely to binge drink, and were more likely to abstain from alcohol altogether, than non- carriers.

These lower alcohol consumers typically had a 10% average reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure and a lower body mass index (BMI).

The researchers conclude that reducing alcohol consumption across all levels of consumption – even light to moderate drinking – is beneficial for heart health.

Co-author Michael Holmes, a research assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine’s department of Transplant Surgery, says, “Contrary to what earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol has a negative impact upon heart health.”

He added that observational studies have suggested only heavy drinking is bad for the heart, and that light drinking might even provide some benefit, and this has led some people to believe moderate consumption is good for their health, even lowering their risk of heart disease.

“However, what we’re seeing with this new study, which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomized clinical trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health,” says Prof. Holmes.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and the UK’s Medical Research Council, examined the heart health of people who carry a particular version of the gene “alcohol dehydrogenase 1B” which is a protein that helps to break down alcohol more quickly than in non-carriers.

The rapid breakdown causes nausea, facial flushing, and other symptoms, and is linked to lower levels of alcohol consumption over time.
The team used the gene as an indicator of lower alcohol consumption, and from there found the links between lower consumption and improved heart health.

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;

Worrying increase in alcohol-related deaths in older women – new UK figures reveal


London: Insreasing numbers of females are dying of alcohol-related diseases, official UK Government statistics have revealed.

The number of deaths from both men and women have also doubled in the last 15 years, with a huge rise in middle-aged women.

The figures come as Britain faces and epidemic of binge-drinking among youngsters who they warn are likely to carry on damaging their bodies for the rest of their lives.

The UK’s office for National Statistics, figures show that there were 12.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2005 but this increased to 13.4 in 2006.

In 1991 there were 6.9 deaths per 100,000. The figures also show a rise in the number of alcohol-related deaths mainly as a result of liver disease from 4,144 in 1991 to 8,758 in 2006.

There has also been a huge increase s in deaths among middle-aged women. The death rate for women aged 35 to 54 doubled between 1991 and 2006, from 7.2 to 14.8 per 100,000 population.

Although the figures for women are increasingly worrying, men are still more likely to die from drink than women.

Two thirds of all alcohol-related deaths are among men, and there were 18.3 deaths per 100,000 population among men and 8.8 among women.

For men, the death rates in all age groups increased between 1991 and 2006. The biggest increase in deaths from alcohol consumption was seen among the 35 to 54 age group, with rates doubling since 1991 to 31.1 per 100,000.

UK Government reviews health guidelines for alcohol


London: ONE in four women in the UK is drinking more than is recommended following a Government revision of the alcohol unit system.

The new guidelines have been issued because many drinks and particularly wine are higher now in alcohol than at the time the unit rules were created.

According to the UK Government’s Office of National Statistics, a glass of wine which is officially classified as one unit should now be counted as two.

The Government has highlighted the problem with wine because it forms, on average, 40% of a women’s intake of alcohol. This compares to less than 20 percent for a man.

It is estimated that about 14 percent of women, aged between 14 and retirement age, are drinking too many units because they are calculating using the old method. Using the new method this dramatically increased to 25 per cent.

Manyof those drinking too much as high income earners and professionals. An average senior female manager in a large company is now drinking 15.2 units of alcohol a week.

Among men, a third over the age of 25 are now thought to be drinking more than Health Department recommended safe levels of 21 units a week.

The new rules replace those created in 1978 which have been outdated by bars serving ever larger glasses of wine with ever higher alcohol levels.

Pub wine glasses used to hold 125 millilitres, but now many serve 175 or 250 are common. In addition, thirty years ago many wines only had nine per cent alcohol. Today’s many wines are 14 per cent and even higher. Many beers and lagers have also increased in strength in recent years.

Free guide to identifying alcohol abuse


London: A valuable guide, designed to help identify substance abuse in loved ones, is now available. ‘Beginning Recovery’ is the title of the new guide, published by Winthrop Hall – the UK’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 London’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 year’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. It’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.

It’s important to remember that help is always at hand – but it’s getting the right help that counts. A copy of the ‘Beginning Recovery’ 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

For more details on Winthrop Hall, call 01580 894334.

Young adults ravaged by lifestyle disease, says new report

London: Poor lifestyle habits such as binge-drinking, bad eating habits and smoking are to blame for the increasing number of young adults who are not getting enough vital nutrients, a new UK study says.

As a result it is predicted that many will go on to suffer debilitating illnesses such as the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and even a drop in life expenctancy.

The study, commissioned by Boots Health Club, part of the nationwide chemist chain, found that large numbers of men and women have low intakes of at least eight key vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin A.

It warned that millions of young people are thought to be ‘vita-rexic’ – a term coined for vitamin deficiency. Alarmingly, the study found that 96 per cent of women aged 19 to 24 were at risk of becoming iron deficient. This can lead to symptoms of anaemia, which leaves the sufferer feeling weak and tired.

More than half of women and a third of men were also found to be deficient in calcium, which is vital to help maintain healthy bones.

Dr Ann Walker, senior lecturer in nutrition at the University of Reading, said: ‘Modern lifestyles are at fault with many people working long hours, with bad diets and little time for exercise.

‘Bad diet, smoking and binge drinking are having a devastating effect on people’s health – women in particular – and adding to the burden of full-time work. It is hugely important that young adults start eating more healthily to avoid stressing the immune system.’

Every year Britons spend £300million on vitamin and mineral pills in the belief they can help prevent illnesses or make up for the nutrients lacking in their diet.

But earlier this year an influential panel of U.S. scientists said there is no strong evidence that they provide any benefit.

They warned that as many as one in ten of those taking supplements could even be in danger of overdosing and exceeding the daily ‘safe’ intake when nutrients in their food are included.

Most nutritionists agree that a healthy and balanced diet – which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables – will provide all the nutrients that most people need.

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.