Binge drinking mouse: image via lunarweight.glogspot.com In the first controlled study of the effects of alcohol on the heart,
scientists at the University of Rochester Medical School have shown that
14 alcoholic drinks a week can be healthy for your heart, or it can put
you at high risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Mouse imbibers tell the story....
Although previous studies have indicated a causal link between binge drinking and heart disease, the data has been largely based on self-reporting. The Rochester study controlled alcohol and food intake of three groups of mice during the course of their experiments: a 'daily-moderate' group that were given two alchoholic drink equivalents of ethanol every day; a 'weekend-binge' group, which received the equivalent of seven drinks two times per week; and the control group, which was given a non-alcoholic cornstarch mix.
The mice were all fed a high fat diet, one which would tend to form plaque on the artery walls causing them to narrow as they do in atherosclerosis.
The results may surprise you.
First, the weekend binge group... LDL cholesterol, or 'bad' cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease, went way up - 20 percent - among the binge drinking mice. But, interestingly, the HDL, or good cholesterol, levels went up as well - a phenomenon that researcher John Cullen attributed to a short term effect of the alcohol. In addition, the binge drinkers gained three times more weight than the moderate drinkers and two times more weight than the non-drinkers.
In the daily-moderate drinking group, there was also a rise in good cholesterol, but the bad cholesterol levels fell by 40 percent! These LDL levels compared very favorably, not only to the binge drinking mice, but to the non-drinking mice.
What's more, the moderate drinkers had a decrease in the volume of arterial plaque and inflammatory cells that contribute to atherosclerosis, whereas the binge-drinking mice had an increase in plaque and inflammation, even compared to the non-drinking mice.
This controlled study makes an important contribution to heart disease research. Until now, heart health experts have been recommending 'no more than' 1-2 drinks per day, but based on this research showing that moderate drinking is better for your heart than not drinking at all, they will have to actually recommend moderate drinking - but absolutely no binge drinking!