New finding show that Northern Ireland’s binge drinking culture could be behind the country’s high rates of heart disease, according to a study which compared drinking patterns of middle-aged men in France and Northern Ireland.
The study found that the volume of alcohol consumed over a week in both countries is almost identical. However, in Northern Ireland alcohol tends to be drunk over one or two days rather than regularly throughout the week as in France. The research also found that the average amount of alcohol consumed in Northern Ireland over the weekend is around 2-3 times higher than in France.
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.
Another reason for the higher risk of heart disease in Northern Ireland could be that more people tend to drink beer and spirits than wine. In France, wine is the main alcoholic drink of choice and established research has concluded that drinking a moderate about of wine can protect against heart disease.
The study defined binge drinking as excessive alcohol consumption (over 50g) drunk over a short period of time, for example on one day during the weekend (50g of alcohol equates to 4-5 drinks, and a drink to 125ml of wine or a half pint of beer).
1. Ruidavets J-B, Ducimetière P, Evans A. Patterns of alcohol consumption and ischaemic heart disease in culturally divergent countries: the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME). BMJ 2010; 341: c6077. (open access)