Quantity and frequency of drinking influence mortality risk

Mar 04, 2008

How much and how often people drink – not just the average amount of alcohol they consume over time – independently influence the risk of death from several causes, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"Taken together, our results reinforce the importance of drinking in moderation. In drinkers who are not alcohol dependent, the majority of U.S. drinkers, alcohol quantity and frequency might be thought of as modifiable risk factors for mortality,” the researchers conclude.

“These findings underscore the importance of looking at drinking patterns when investigating alcohol-related health outcomes,” says Ting-Kai Li, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the NIH.

Rosalind A. Breslow, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemiologist in NIAAA’s Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, and Barry I. Graubard, Ph.D., a statistician in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, examined data from a nationwide health survey conducted in 1988. Almost half of the nearly 44,000 people who participated in the survey identified themselves as current drinkers who had at least 12 drinks of alcohol during the previous year. By the end of 2002, more than 2,500 of these individuals had died. Drs. Breslow and Graubard compared their causes of death with the alcohol consumption patterns they reported in the survey. A report of their findings appears in the March, 2008 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The researchers found that, in men, alcohol frequency and quantity had opposite effects on cardiovascular mortality. The greater the amount of alcohol that men consumed on drinking days, the greater was their risk for death from cardiovascular disease. For example, men who had five or more drinks on drinking days had a 30 percent greater risk for cardiovascular mortality than men who had just one drink per drinking day. Alcohol quantity was also associated with increased mortality from cancer among men. On the other hand, frequency of drinking was associated with decreased risk for death from cardiovascular disease among men -- those who reported drinking 120 to 365 days per year had about 20 percent lower cardiovascular mortality than men who drank just one to 36 days per year. The current study was not designed to determine why drinking frequency might have a protective effect. Among women, frequent drinking was associated with a significantly increased risk of cancer, while increased quantity was associated with risk for mortality from all causes.

Previous studies have linked moderate drinking with reduced risk for death from cardiovascular disease, while heavier drinking has been linked with increased mortality. Such studies have typically measured individuals’ average alcohol intake. A drawback of that approach, says Dr. Breslow, is that averaging obscures potential differences between people who sometimes drink heavily and those who consistently drink small amounts of alcohol.

“Average intake makes no distinction between the individual who has seven drinks one day each week, for example, and someone who has just one drink, every day,” explains Dr. Breslow. “Our study is the first to look at how both quantity and frequency components of alcohol consumption independently influence cause-specific mortality within a single cohort representing the US population.”

The researchers note that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (www.health.gov/dietaryguidelin… nt/html/chapter9.htm) advise men to drink no more than two drinks per day and women to drink no more than one drink per day. Because women's bodies generally have less water than men's bodies, a given amount of alcohol is less diluted in a woman's body than in a man's. Consequently, when a woman drinks, the alcohol in her bloodstream typically reaches a higher level than a man's even if both are drinking the same amount.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Explore further: Exercise can outweigh harmful effects of air pollution

Related Stories

Lager yeast ancestors were full of eastern promise

Feb 26, 2015

There are few drinks as iconic as a 'pint of the black stuff'. It might, therefore, surprise beer connoisseurs to learn that the DNA of the all-important brewing yeast – the building blocks of the perfect Stout – is the ...

Picking up on the smell of evolution

Jan 28, 2015

UA researchers have discovered some of the changes in genes, physiology and behavior that enable a species to drastically change its lifestyle in the course of evolution.

Nanoparticles for clean drinking water

Jan 16, 2015

One way of removing harmful nitrate from drinking water is to catalyse its conversion to nitrogen. This process suffers from the drawback that it often produces ammonia. By using palladium nanoparticles as ...

Researchers study nanogold's potential in biomedicine

Jan 13, 2015

Peng Zhang is excited about gold, and you should be too. In particular, he's excited about nanogold, structures of a handful of atoms measuring only a few nanometers in diameter. Zhang, a researcher at Dalhousie ...

Bugs and flowers inspire new cocktail curiosities

Jan 06, 2015

Your mother probably warned against playing with your food, but she may have neglected to mention playing with your drinks. Dr. Lisa Burton, a scientist from MIT, thankfully missed that lesson. Inspired by a love of experimental ...

Recommended for you

Exercise can outweigh harmful effects of air pollution

39 minutes ago

New research from the University of Copenhagen has found that the beneficial effects of exercise are more important for our health than the negative effects of air pollution, in relation to the risk of premature ...

Morocco confronts abortion taboo with proposed reform

3 hours ago

It was just 7 a.m. and Hoda was walking alone to a clinic in the Moroccan coastal city of Agadir. She skipped breakfast: the Senegalese doctor had told her that the abortion would be better done on an empty ...

Physician/Pharmacist model can improve mean BP

Mar 27, 2015

(HealthDay)—A physician/pharmacist collaborative model can improve mean blood pressure (BP), according to a study published online March 24 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

Innovative prototype presented for post-ICU patients

Mar 27, 2015

(HealthDay)—A collaborative care model, the Critical Care Recovery Center (CCRC), represents an innovative prototype aimed to improve the quality of life of intensive care unit (ICU) survivors, according ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.