INTRODUCTION: Youth obesity rates in Canada continue to rise. In this study, we produced conservative estimates of the potential excess calories from alcohol use across different alcohol consumption patterns common among Canadian youth to assess whether alcohol use should be considered in future obesity prevention strategies.

METHODS: Using data from 10 144 Grade 12 students participating in the COMPASS study (2013/14), we estimated the number of calories consumed per year from alcohol consumption. Our estimates were based on three different generic types of alcoholic beverages, which were grouped according to average calorie content (vodka coolers; beer [5%]; and beer [4%], wine and liquor) across different frequencies of alcohol use and binge drinking.

RESULTS: Results indicated high potential caloric intake for students who binge drank, as well as high variability in the estimates for calories consumed based on common consumption patterns for the different beverage types. For instance, 27.2% of students binge drank once per month, meaning they consumed between 6000 and 13 200 calories in one year (equivalent to 0.78 - 1.71 kg of fat). For the 4.9% of students who binge drank twice per week, the total calories in one year would range from 52 000 to 114 400 (equivalent to 6.74 - 14.83 kg of fat).

CONCLUSION: Current recommendations for preventing youth obesity do not generally include any consideration of alcohol use. The high prevalence of frequent alcohol consumption and binge drinking by youth in this study and the substantial number of calories contained in alcoholic beverages suggest alcohol use among youth may warrant consideration in relation to youth obesity prevention.

Published in General Health

Introduction: Adolescence and young adulthood are periods of continued biological and psychosocial maturation. Thus, there may be deleterious effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol on neural development and associated cognition during this time. The purpose of this mini review is to highlight neuroimaging research that has specifically examined the effects of binge and heavy drinking on adolescent and young adult brain structure and function.

Methods: We review cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of young binge and heavy drinkers that have examined brain structure (e.g., gray and white matter volume, cortical thickness, white matter microstructure) and investigated brain response using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Results: Binge and heavy-drinking adolescents and young adults have systematically thinner and lower volume in prefrontal cortex and cerebellar regions, and attenuated white matter development. They also show elevated brain activity in fronto-parietal regions during working memory, verbal learning, and inhibitory control tasks. In response to alcohol cues, relative to controls or light-drinking individuals, binge and heavy drinkers show increased neural response mainly in mesocorticolimbic regions, including the striatum, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, and amygdala. Mixed findings are present in risky decision-making tasks, which could be due to large variation in task design and analysis.

Conclusions: These findings suggest altered neural structure and activity in binge and heavy-drinking youth may be related to the neurotoxic effects of consuming alcohol in large quantities during a highly plastic neurodevelopmental period, which could result in neural reorganization, and increased risk for developing an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Published in Drinking Patterns

BACKGROUND: Existing research on parental supply of alcohol analyses the effects of self-reported parental supply on adolescent drinking using individual level data. This study examined the contextual effect of parental supply of alcohol on adolescent alcohol use by examining the association between the prevalence of parental supply in each Australian state and adolescent alcohol use using a multilevel analytic framework.

METHODS: Adolescent samples (Age: 12-17) were drawn from the four National Drug Strategy Household Surveys (2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013; N = 6803). The prevalence of parental supply of alcohol, defined as the weighted percentage of sample who reported obtaining alcohol from their parents, was estimated in each state and territory across the four surveys. Three multilevel logistic regressions were used to examine the contextual effects of parental supply prevalence on adolescents' alcohol use in the past 12 months, weekly drinking and heavy drinking.

RESULTS: Overall, adolescents' rates of past 12 months alcohol use, heavy drinking and weekly drinking between 2004 and 2013 were 40.1, 14.4 and 6.4% respectively. The prevalence of parental supply was significantly associated with past 12 months alcohol use (OR = 1.06, p < .001) and heavy drinking (OR = 1.04, p < .001) but not with weekly drinking (OR = 1.03, p = .189). The results were adjusted for gender, age, socio-economic index for area, place of birth, survey year and prevalence of peer supply.

CONCLUSION: A high prevalence of parental supply in a region was associated with heavier adolescent drinking, regardless of whether adolescents primarily obtained their alcohol from their own parents.

Published in Drinking Patterns

Alcohol consumption by adult women is consistently associated with risk of breast cancer. Several questions regarding alcohol and breast cancer need to be addressed. Menarche to first pregnancy represents a window of time when breast tissue is particularly susceptible to carcinogens. Youth alcohol consumption is common in the USA, largely in the form of binge drinking and heavy drinking. Whether alcohol intake acts early in the process of breast tumorigenesis is unclear. This review aims to focus on the influences of timing and patterns of alcohol consumption and the effect of alcohol on intermediate risk markers. We also review possible mechanisms underlying the alcohol-breast cancer association.

Published in Cancer
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