Frequent binge drinking in college can cause more than a hangover. Regularly consuming multiple drinks in a short window of time can cause immediate changes in circulation that increase an otherwise healthy young adult's risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life, according to research published online today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"Regular binge drinking is one of the most serious public health problems confronting our college campuses, and drinking on college campuses has become more pervasive and destructive," said Shane A. Phillips, PT, PhD, senior author and associate professor and associate head of physical therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Binge drinking is neurotoxic and our data support that there may be serious cardiovascular consequences in young adults."
College students age 18 to 25 years old have the highest rates of binge drinking episodes, with more than half engaging in binge drinking on a regular basis. Prior studies have found that binge drinking among adults age 40 to 60 years old is associated with an increase in risk for stroke, sudden cardiac death and heart attack, but the effect on younger adults has not been studied.
Researchers looked at two groups of healthy nonsmoking college students: those who had a history of binge drinking and those who abstained from alcohol. Binge drinking was defined as consuming five or more standard size drinks (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80 proof spirits or 8-9 ounces of malt liquor) in a two-hour period for males and four or more standard size drinks in a two-hour period for females. On average, the students who binge drink had six such episodes each month over four years. Abstainers were defined as having consumed no more than five drinks in the prior year.
Students were also questioned about their medical history, diet, history of family alcohol abuse and frequency of binge drinking.