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Drinking Patterns Affect Heart Health, Mouse Study Finds
Date:9/14/2011

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- How often you consume alcohol may be more important than how much you consume in determining the risk of heart disease, new research in mice shows.

Researchers have found that binge drinking, defined as having seven drinks a day for two days in a week, may lead to weight gain and an increased risk for atherosclerosis or "hardening of the arteries" caused by fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries.

But the researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York found the opposite holds true for those who drink moderately on a regular basis. The study, performed in mice, revealed that drinking about two drinks every day may actually decrease the risk for heart disease.

"People need to consider not only how much alcohol they drink, but the way in which they are drinking it," lead study author John Cullen, research associate professor in the university's department of surgery, said in a university news release. "Research shows that people have yet to be convinced of the dangers of binge drinking to their health; we're hoping our work changes that."

In conducting the study, the researchers divided mice into three groups, including:

  • A "daily-moderate" group, which was fed the ethanol equivalent of two drinks a day, seven days a week.
  • A "weekend-binge" group, which was fed about seven drinks on two days of the week.
  • A "control" group, which was fed a non-alcoholic cornstarch mix.

Additionally, all of the mice were given a high-fat diet -- simulating a typical "Western" diet with fried foods -- to increase the development of atherosclerosis.

The investigators found that levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol -- known as "bad" cholesterol -- dropped 40 percent in the daily-moderate drinking mice, but jumped 20 percent in the weekend-binge-drinking mice, compared to the control group. T
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