Those who drink in excess of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines (i.e., men who usually drink more than two drinks per day or women who usually drink more than one drink per day) or those who binge drink are at increased risk for the metabolic syndrome, according to a new study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).
The metabolic syndrome consists of a series of risk factors and conditions that are strongly related to cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. These conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
“These findings are significant because the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows 58 percent of all current drinkers in the United States reported usual alcohol consumption that exceeded the Dietary Guidelines, and 52 percent of all current drinkers reported at least one episode of binge drinking in the past year,” said Amy Fan, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, Ga., and lead author of the study. “Most people who consume alcohol in the United States drink in ways that may increase their risk of the metabolic syndrome and related conditions.”
For this study, Dr. Fan and other researchers evaluated data from 1,529 participants of the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They restricted their analysis to current drinkers (participants who consumed at least 12 alcoholic drinks in 12 months) aged 20 to 84 years. The survey included both an interview and a physical examination that included a blood test. Measures of alcohol consumption included usual quantity consumed, drinking frequency, and frequency of binge drinking.
“Since more than half of current drinkers in our study drank in excess of the Dietary Guidelines limits and reported binge drinking, prevention efforts should focus on reducing alcohol consumption to safer levels,” said Dr. Fan. “Unfortunately, few physicians screen their patients about alcohol use or are knowledgeable about guidelines that define low-risk or moderate drinking.”
Dr. Fan went on to say that public health messages should emphasize the potential cardiometabolic risk associated with drinking in excess of national guidelines and binge drinking.