When in Belfast, Do not Drink Like the Locals

Binge drinking associated with higher risk of heart attack, cardiovascular events

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you’re going to drink, take a cue from the French.

A recent 10-year study comparing the drinking habits of 2,405 men from Belfast and 7,373 men from France found that those who engaged in binge drinking were nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease as those who drink regularly. (Regular drinking is defined as drinking at least one day a week and less than 1.8 ounces of alcohol during one sitting.)

In Belfast, men were much more likely to binge drink (defined as “excessive alcohol intake over a short period on one occasion each week"). More than 9 percent of study participants in Belfast reported binge drinking, while Frenchmen who binge-drink account for less than 1 percent. This made men in Belfast far more likely to suffer cardiovascular events than Frenchmen – about 76 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or coronary death than their French counterparts.

"Regular and moderate alcohol intake throughout the week … is associated with a low risk of ischemic heart disease, whereas the binge drinking pattern more prevalent in Belfast confers a higher risk," Dr. Jean-Bernard Ruidavets of Toulouse University in France and colleagues reported.

Frenchmen spread out their alcohol consumption. About 75 percent of Frenchmen drink every day, whereas 11.9 percent drink every day in Belfast (while 72.2 percent reported drinking one, two or three days a week.) Frenchmen preferred wine to beer and spirits, which are the preferred beverages in Belfasat.

Drinking more was associated with higher smoking levels, higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels and elevated blood pressure readings. The results are particularly troubling as binge drinking appears to be on the rise among youths across the globe.

"The alcohol industry takes every opportunity to imbue alcohol consumption with a positive image, emphasizing its beneficial effects on risk of ischemic heart disease, but people also need to be informed about the health consequences of heavy drinking," the researchers wrote.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 29, 2010
Last Updated:
November 14, 2011