|Study Links Diet Quality with Alcohol Drinking Patterns
Unhealthy alcohol drinking patterns may go hand-in-hand with unhealthy eating
habits, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Examining diet quality
of individuals who drink any kind of alcoholic beverage, researchers found that
people who drink the largest quantities of alcohol — even infrequently — have
the poorest quality diets. Conversely, people who drink the least amount of alcohol — regardless
of drinking frequency — have the best quality diets. A report of the findings
appears in the February 15, 2006 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.
“This is a very useful finding that refines our understanding of the relationship
between patterns of alcohol consumption and other aspects of health behavior,” said
NIAAA Director Ting-Kai Li, M.D.
Previous studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated
with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and death, notes first author
Rosalind A. Breslow, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in NIAAA’s Division of Epidemiology
and Prevention Research. However, diet could be partly responsible for these
findings, since a healthy diet has been associated with the same outcome.
“Clarifying the relationship between alcohol consumption and diet quality is
an important step in determining the extent to which diet influences studies
of alcohol and cardiovascular outcomes,” explains Dr. Breslow. To that end, the
purpose of our study was to determine the association between drinking patterns
and diet quality in the U.S. population. It’s important to note that determining
the cause or causes of any such association was not part of our current study.”
Dr. Breslow and her colleagues analyzed data collected from more than 3,000
participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES),
an ongoing survey of representative cross-sectional samples of the U.S. population
conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Data included alcohol consumption information as well
as Healthy Eating Index (HEI) scores, a widely used measure of total diet quality.
Created by the USDA, the HEI measures how closely an individual’s diet conforms
to USDA recommendations regarding vegetables, fruit, grains, meat, and milk as
well as total fat, cholesterol, and sodium consumption.
Total alcohol — the sum of individuals’ wine, beer, and liquor consumption —
was characterized by three variables: the amount consumed on drinking days (quantity);
how often consumption occurs (frequency); and average daily volume (quantity
multiplied by frequency). As alcohol quantity increased, HEI scores declined.
As alcohol frequency increased, HEI scores improved. Diet quality was poorest
among the highest quantity, least frequent drinkers and best among the lowest
quantity, more frequent drinkers.
The researchers also found that HEI scores were not significantly different
between those who drank the highest average daily volume compared with those
who drank the lowest average daily volume. They therefore suggest that alcohol
drinking patterns — as measured by quantity and frequency — rather than average
daily consumption, should be considered in future studies of the relationship
between alcohol consumption and health outcomes.
“In our study, healthier diets were associated with healthier drinking patterns,” says
Dr. Breslow. “In that regard, I think it’s important that women have not more
than 1 drink per day and that men have not more than 2 drinks per day — the
alcohol consumption recommendations set forth in the sixth edition of Dietary
Guidelines for Americans, the federal government’s science-based advice to promote
health and reduce risk of chronic diseases through nutrition and physical activity.”
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National
Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting
research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol
abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems and disseminates research findings
to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research
information and publications are available at www.niaaa.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.