22 March 2022 In Drinking Patterns

ISSUES: Numerous studies have examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol use changes in Europe, with concerns raised regarding increased use and related harms.

APPROACH: We synthesised observational studies published between 1 January 2020 and 31 September 2021 on self-reported changes in alcohol use associated with COVID-19. Electronic databases were searched for studies evaluating individual data from European general and clinical populations. We identified 646 reports, of which 56 general population studies were suitable for random-effects meta-analyses of proportional differences in alcohol use changes. Variations by time, sub-region and study quality were assessed in subsequent meta-regressions. Additional 16 reports identified were summarised narratively.

KEY FINDINGS: Compiling reports measuring changes in overall alcohol use, slightly more individuals indicated a decrease than an increase in their alcohol use during the pandemic [3.8%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.00-7.6%]. Decreases were also reported more often than increases in drinking frequency (8.0%, 95% CI 2.7-13.2%), quantity consumed (12.2%, 95% CI 8.3-16.2%) and heavy episodic drinking (17.7%, 95% CI 13.6-21.8%). Among people with pre-existing high drinking levels/alcohol use disorder, high-level drinking patterns appear to have solidified or intensified.

IMPLICATIONS: Pandemic-related changes in alcohol use may be associated with pre-pandemic drinking levels. Increases among high-risk alcohol users are concerning, suggesting a need for ongoing monitoring and support from relevant health-care services.

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that more people reduced their alcohol use in Europe than increased it since the onset of the pandemic. However high-quality studies examining specific change mechanisms at the population level are lacking.

22 March 2022 In Cardiovascular System

Alcohol consumption is a known, modifiable risk factor for incident atrial fibrillation (AF). However, it remains unclear whether the protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption-that has been reported for various cardiovascular diseases also applies to the risk for new-onset AF.

The purpose of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the role of different drinking patterns (low: 168 grams/week) on the risk for incident AF. Major electronic databases were searched for observational cohorts examining the role of different drinking behaviors on the risk for incident AF. We analyzed 16 studies (13,044,007 patients). Incident AF rate was 2.3%. Moderate alcohol consumption significantly reduced the risk for new-onset AF when compared to both abstainers (logOR: -0.20; 95%CI: -0.28--0.12; I2: 96.71%) and heavy drinkers (logOR: -0.28; 95%CI: -0.37--0.18; I2: 95.18%). Heavy-drinking pattern compared to low also increased the risk for incident AF (logOR: 0.14; 95%CI: 0.01-0.2; I2: 98.13%).

Substantial heterogeneity was noted, with more homogeneous results documented in cohorts with follow-up shorter than five years. Our findings suggest a J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and incident AF. Up to 14 drinks per week seem to decrease the risk for developing AF. Because of the substantial heterogeneity observed, no robust conclusion can be drawn.

In any case, our results suggest that the association between alcohol consumption and incident AF is far from being a straightforward dose-response effect.

24 March 2021 In Pregnant Women
Alcohol consumption remains prevalent among pregnant and nursing mothers despite the well-documented adverse effects this may have on the offspring. Moderate-to-high levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy result in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) disorders, with brain defects being chief among the abnormalities. Recent findings indicate that while light-to-moderate levels may not cause FAS, it may contribute to epigenetic changes that make the offspring prone to adverse health outcomes including metabolic disorders and an increased propensity in the adolescent-onset of drinking alcohol. On the one hand, prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) causes epigenetic changes that affect lipid and glucose transcript regulating genes resulting in metabolic abnormalities. On the other hand, it can program offspring for increased alcohol intake, enhance its palatability, and increase acceptance of alcohol's flavor through associative learning, making alcohol a plausible second hit for the development of alcohol-induced liver disease. Adolescent drinking results in alcohol dependence and abuse in adulthood. Adolescent drinking results in alcohol dependence and abuse in adulthood. Alterations on the opioid system, particularly, the mu-opioid system, has been implicated in the mechanism that induces increased alcohol consumption and acceptance. This review proposes a mechanism that links PAE to the development of alcoholism and eventually to alcoholic liver disease (ALD), which results from prolonged alcohol consumption. While PAE may not lead to ALD development in childhood, there are chances that it may lead to ALD in adulthood.
25 August 2020 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Alcohol and in particular red wine have both immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties, and may exert an effect on the disease course of multiple sclerosis (MS).

OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between alcohol and red wine consumption and MS course.

METHODS: MS patients enrolled in the Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (CLIMB) who completed a self-administered questionnaire about their past year drinking habits at a single time point were included in the study. Alcohol and red wine consumption were measured as servings/week. The primary outcome was the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) at the time of the questionnaire. Secondary clinical outcomes were the Multiple Sclerosis Severity Score (MSSS) and number of relapses in the year before the questionnaire. Secondary MRI outcomes included brain parenchymal fraction and T2 hyperintense lesion volume (T2LV). Appropriate regression models were used to test the association of alcohol and red wine intake on clinical and MRI outcomes. All analyses were controlled for sex, age, body mass index, disease phenotype (relapsing vs. progressive), the proportion of time on disease modifying therapy during the previous year, smoking exposure, and disease duration. In the models for the MRI outcomes, analyses were also adjusted for acquisition protocol.

RESULTS: 923 patients (74% females, mean age 47 +/- 11 years, mean disease duration 14 +/- 9 years) were included in the analysis. Compared to abstainers, patients drinking more than 4 drinks per week had a higher likelihood of a lower EDSS score (OR, 0.41; p = 0.0001) and lower MSSS (mean difference, - 1.753; p = 0.002) at the time of the questionnaire. Similarly, patients drinking more than 3 glasses of red wine per week had greater odds of a lower EDSS (OR, 0.49; p = 0.0005) and lower MSSS (mean difference, - 0.705; p = 0.0007) compared to nondrinkers. However, a faster increase in T2LV was observed in patients consuming 1-3 glasses of red wine per week compared to nondrinkers.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher total alcohol and red wine intake were associated with a lower cross-sectional level of neurologic disability in MS patients but increased T2LV accumulation. Further studies should explore a potential cause-effect neuroprotective relationship, as well as the underlying biological mechanisms

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