BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Europe has the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world. As drinking patterns are important determinants of the beneficial and harmful effects of alcohol consumption, we investigated alcohol consumption in relation to nutrient intake, place of consumption, education and body weight in a sample of adults from 10 European countries.

METHODS: A 24-h dietary recall interview was conducted on 13 025 men and 23 009 women, aged 35-74 years, from 27 centres participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Means and standard errors of alcohol consumption, adjusted for age, were calculated, stratified by gender and centre.

RESULTS: In many centres, higher level drinkers (males consuming >24 g of ethanol/day, equivalent to >2 standard drinks and females consuming >12 g of ethanol/day equivalent to >1 standard drink) obtained more energy from fat and protein and less from sugar than did abstainers. The proportion of energy from starch tended to be higher for male and lower for female higher level drinkers than for abstainers. Female higher level drinkers had a lower body mass index than did abstainers, whereas male higher level drinkers generally weighed more. Male higher level drinkers were less educated than abstainers in Mediterranean countries, but were more educated elsewhere. Female higher level drinkers were usually more educated than were abstainers. Outside the home, consumption (both genders) tended to be at friends' homes, particularly among men in Northern and Central Europe, and in bars in Spain.

CONCLUSIONS: This study reveals clear geographical differences in drinking habits across Europe, and shows that the characteristics of different alcohol consumption categories also vary.

Published in Drinking Patterns

Early consumption of full servings of alcohol and early experience of drunkenness have been linked with alcohol-related harmful effects in adolescence, as well as adult health and social problems. On the basis of secondary analysis of county-level prevalence data, the present study explored the current pattern of drinking and drunkenness among 15- and 16-year-old adolescents in 40 European and North American countries. Data from the 2006 Health Behavior in School Children survey and the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs were used. The potential role of alcohol control and policy measures in explaining variance in drinking patterns across countries was also examined. Policy measures and data on adult consumption patterns were taken from the WHO Global Information System on Alcohol and Health, Eurostat and the indicator of alcohol control policy strength developed by Brand DA, Saisana M, Rynn LA et al. [(2007) Comparative analysis of alcohol control policies in 30 countries. PLoS Med 4:e151.]. We found that a non-significant trend existed whereby higher prices and stronger alcohol controls were associated with a lower proportion of weekly drinking but a higher proportion of drunkenness. It is important that future research explores the causal relationships between alcohol policy measures and alcohol consumption patterns to determine whether strict policies do in fact have any beneficial effect on drinking patterns, or rather, lead to rebellion and an increased prevalence of binge drinking.

Published in Drinking Patterns

Dietary ethanol (alcohol) is the most widely consumed drug worldwide. High levels of mortality, morbidity, and social malaise are associated with abuse of alcohol, and increasing numbers of women and youth are abusing alcohol. However, strong epidemiological data demonstrate a U- or J-shaped relationship between volume of alcohol consumed and all-cause mortality or disease burden. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality and disease burden than are abstinence and immoderate drinking. A brief review of the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of ethanol is provided with a discussion of the impact of gender differences. Potential mechanisms by which ethanol, ethanol metabolites, and (or) phytochemicals, as associated with different types of ethanol-containing beverages, are discussed in regards to the beneficial and detrimental impacts they may have on physiological system functioning and mortality or disease burden. Per capita consumption of ethanol-containing beverages varies across geo-political regions worldwide. A more recent research focus is the impact of consumption patterns on consumption volumes as they relate to disease and mortality. Certain drinking patterns moderate overall volume of ethanol consumption. Thus, an emerging approach to the study of alcohol consumption in populations is to consider both the volume and pattern of consumption as they relate to mortality and disease burden. Alcohol consumption patterns among athletes are discussed; physiological implications of alcohol abuse in this population are outlined. Current guidelines for the consumption of alcohol are reviewed. Alcohol consumption guidelines reflect the current scientific understanding of both the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption and the detriments of immoderate alcohol consumption.

Published in Drinking Patterns

BACKGROUND: Binge drinking is a constant problem behavior in adolescents across Europe. Epidemiological investigations have been reported. However, epidemiological data on alcohol consumption of adolescents with different migration backgrounds are rare. Furthermore representative data on rural-urban comparison concerning alcohol consumption and binge drinking are lacking. The aims of the study are the investigation of alcohol consumption patterns with respect to a) urban-rural differences and b) differences according to migration background.

METHODS: In the years 2007/2008, a representative written survey of N = 44,610 students in the 9th. grade of different school types in Germany was carried out (net sample). The return rate of questionnaires was 88 % regarding all students whose teachers respectively school directors had agreed to participate in the study. Weighting factors were specified and used to make up for regional and school-type specific differences in return rates. 27.4 % of the adolescents surveyed have a migration background, whereby the Turkish culture is the largest group followed by adolescents who emigrated from former Soviet Union states. The sample includes seven large cities (over 500,000 inhabitants) (12.2 %), independent smaller cities ("urban districts") (19.0 %) and rural areas ("rural districts") (68.8 %).

RESULTS: Life-time prevalence for alcohol consumption differs significantly between rural (93.7 %) and urban areas (86.6 % large cities; 89.1 % smaller cities) with a higher prevalence in rural areas. The same accounts for 12-month prevalence for alcohol consumption. 57.3 % of the rural, respectively 45.9 % of the urban adolescents engaged in binge drinking in the 4 weeks prior to the survey. Students with migration background of the former Soviet Union showed mainly drinking behavior similar to that of German adolescents. Adolescents with Turkish roots had engaged in binge drinking in the last four weeks less frequently than adolescents of German descent (23.6 % vs. 57.4 %). However, in those adolescents who consumed alcohol in the last 4 weeks, binge drinking is very prominent across the cultural backgrounds.

CONCLUSIONS: Binge drinking is a common problem behavior in German adolescents. Obviously adolescents with rural residence have fewer alternatives for engaging in interesting leisure activities than adolescents living in cities. This might be one reason for the more problematic consumption patterns there. Common expectations concerning drinking behavior of adolescents of certain cultural backgrounds ('migrants with Russian background drink more'/ 'migrants from Arabic respectively Oriental-Islamic countries drink less') are only partly affirmed. Possibly, the degree of acculturation to the permissive German alcohol culture plays a role here.

Published in Drinking Patterns

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