Frequent drinking more harmful than binges

Henrietta Strickland
October 20, 2019

A new study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology revealed that those who drink small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis could be at a greater risk of a common heart condition than those who binge drink.

Do you consume alcohol frequently, or in portions? For each gram of alcohol consumed per week, there was a two per cent increase in the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation.

Dr. Jong-Il Choi of Korea University College of Medicine and Korea University located in Seoul, which is the Republic of Korea has said that science has only focussed on the recommendation of reducing the absolute amount of alcohol, disregarding the frequency of consumption.

Now however, scientists in South Korea are warning against this advice - and say that the number of times a person drinks over the week raises the odds of an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation - which increases the risk of suffering a stroke by five times. Ironically, their study suggests that drinking less amount of alcohol more frequently may be crucial for the protection against the atrial fibrillation.

Consuming large amounts of alcohol per drinking session, or "binge drinking", did not show any links to AF, the researchers said.

For the study, the researchers analyzed over 9 million individuals without atrial fibrillation. Symptoms of the condition include chest pain, dizziness, tiredness, and shortness of breath. Compared with participants who drink twice per week, who were used as a reference group, those who drank once per week showed the lowest risk of developing AF, while those who drank every day had the highest risk.

The researchers, publishing in EP Europace, noted that heavy alcohol consumption is an established risk factor for new-onset AFib. "The number of drinking sessions was related to atrial fibrillation onset regardless of age and sex".

Dr. Choi explained that alcohol can disrupt the body's normal sleeping patterns, which is also associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.

Prior studies of the correlation between alcohol and atrial fibrillation suggest an increased risk of 8 percent for every 12 g of alcohol.

With that said, Dr. Choi admitted that further research is necessary to confirm the protective effect of mild drinking. Frequent drinking is a more important risk factor for new-onset atrial fibrillation than binge drinking: a nationwide population-based study. "To prevent new-onset atrial fibrillation, both the frequency and weekly amount of alcohol consumption should be reduced".

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