Alcohol Abuse Increases Risks of Heart Conditions

Alcohol abuse increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, heart attack and congestive heart failure as much as other well-established risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Despite advances in prevention and treatments, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the US. Reducing alcohol abuse might result in meaningful reductions of heart disease, according to the researchers.

“We found that even if you have no underlying risk factors, abuse of alcohol still increases the risk of these heart conditions,” said lead researcher Gregory M. Marcus, MD, director of clinical research in the Division of Cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Double the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

The researchers analyzed data from a database of all California residents ages 21 and older who received ambulatory surgery, emergency or inpatient medical care in California between 2005 and 2009. Among the 14.7 million patients in the database, 1.8 percent, or approximately 268,000, had been diagnosed with alcohol abuse.

The researchers found that after taking into account other risk factors, alcohol abuse was associated with a twofold increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a 1.4-fold increased risk of heart attack and a 2.3-fold increased risk of congestive heart failure. These increased risks were similar in magnitude to other well-recognized modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Completely eradicating alcohol abuse would result in over 73,000 fewer atrial fibrillation cases, 34,000 fewer heart attacks, and 91,000 fewer patients with congestive heart failure in the United States alone, the researchers said.

Drinking Not Good for the Heart

“We were somewhat surprised to find those diagnosed with some form of alcohol abuse were at significantly higher risk of a heart attack,” Marcus said. “We hope this data will temper the enthusiasm for drinking in excess and will avoid any justification for excessive drinking because people think it will be good for their heart. These data pretty clearly prove the opposite.”

Previous research has suggested that moderate levels of alcohol consumption may help prevent heart attack and congestive heart failure, while even low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption have been shown to increase the incidence of atrial fibrillation.

Documented Alcohol Abuse

“The great majority of previous research relied exclusively on self-reports of alcohol abuse,” Marcus said. “That can be an unreliable measure, especially in those who drink heavily. In our study, alcohol abuse was documented in patients’ medical records.” He said that the study did not quantify how much alcohol patients drank.

In an editorial accompanying the new study, Michael H. Criqui, MD, MPH, of the University of California San Diego, wrote that previous studies that found a benefit from alcohol consumption in protecting against heart attack and congestive heart failure were so-called cohort studies, which include defined populations. Such studies tend to recruit stable, cooperative and health-conscious participants who are more likely to be oriented toward a heathier lifestyle.

“Cohort studies have minimal participation by true alcohol abusers, so the current study likely presents a more valid picture of heavy drinking outcomes,” Criqui said.

January 4th, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »

Primary Care Should Include Drug Screening in L.A.

The misuse of both prescription and illicit drugs is so prevalent in Tijuana and East Los Angeles that community clinics in those areas should routinely, though discreetly, screen for it, according to new UCLA research.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Substance Use and Misuse, found that 19.4 percent of people answering a computerized self-administered survey in East Los Angeles community clinics admitted to moderate-to-high drug use. In Tijuana it was 5.7 percent. Rates of drug use among the participants in the study were much higher than what has been found in household surveys in the two countries.

The researchers also found that Los Angeles patients born in Mexico were twice as likely, and Los Angeles patients born in the United States were six times more likely, of being moderate-to-high drug users compared with Tijuana patients born in Mexico.

High Rate of Drug Use Was Surprising

The findings of high rates of drug use ran counter to assumptions, said Dr. Lillian Gelberg, the study’s lead investigator and a professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

“Prevailing expectations were that alcohol would be the major problem and drug use would be lower,” said Gelberg, who is also a professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “But what we found was that the rate of problem drug use — that is, moderate-to-high use — was very similar to problem alcohol use.”

Moderate-to-high alcohol use was 15.2 percent in East Los Angeles compared to 6.5 percent in Tijuana. Moderate-to high tobacco use was 20.4 percent in East Los Angeles and 16.2 percent in Tijuana.

Drug Screening Should Be Routine

While drug use was higher in Los Angeles than it was in Tijuana, the rates in both cities are high enough that screening for drug, alcohol and tobacco use should be integrated into routine primary care in community clinics on both sides of the border, said Melvin Rico, clinical research coordinator in the UCLA Department of Family Medicine who served as the field research coordinator for the study.

“Being able to reach a vulnerable population while waiting for a doctor is, I think, very important,” Rico said.

The paper is part of a larger study of an intervention that found a few minutes of counseling in a primary care setting could steer people away from risky drug use and full-fledged addiction.

Self-Reported Substance Abuse

For this study, which ran from March 2013 through October 2013, the researchers recruited 2,507 adults in Los Angeles and 2,890 in Tijuana who were eligible for the World Health Organization’s Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test. The researchers designed a simple tool that allowed participants to anonymously self-report substance abuse on a computer tablet with a touch screen. Given the stigma associated with drug use, the researchers wanted to remain sensitive to people’s fears of privacy in a way that still encouraged them to be truthful about their substance use.

Questions about substance use were combined with others about healthy eating, exercise, and chronic illnesses so that the patients would not feel stigmatized about a particular behavior, Gelberg said.

Quiz Adapted for Cultural Differences

“We aren’t using interviews and the patients are filling it in on their own,” she said. “We developed this program so that it would work even for patients of low-literacy levels, asking one question at a time and allowing for an audio option with headsets according to patient’s preference. For instance, it would ask ‘did you use cocaine in the last three months and a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would light up on the computer screen.'”

The tool could also easily switch between English and Spanish and the questions and approach were adapted to Latinos in Mexico, whose culture and characteristics had differences compared to those in Los Angeles.

Results Subject to Under-Reporting

Participants took the survey while they were in the clinic waiting room, and it took very little time — a mean of 1.3 minutes in Tijuana and 4.2 minutes in Los Angeles.

This tool can be of use in a primary care clinic because people generally don’t volunteer their drug use to their doctors, who for their part don’t know how to broach the subject, Gelberg said.

The study has some limitations. Substance use was based on patient self-reporting, which could make the findings subject to under-reporting. Also, the findings may or may not be the same in health care settings other than community health centers or in other cities in the United States and Mexico.

January 2nd, 2017  in Substance Abuse No Comments »

Alcohol Risks Increasing for Older Adults

Alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance among older adults, and this group can have unique risks associated with alcohol consumption — in even lower amounts — compared to younger persons.

“Older adults have particular vulnerabilities to alcohol due to physiological changes during aging, including increasing chronic disease burden and medication use,” said Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, a geriatrician and health services researcher at the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Palliative Care at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYU Langone). “However, no recent studies have estimated trends in alcohol use, including binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among older adults.”

Significant Increases in Alcohol Use, Binge Drinking

To address the lack of research, Dr. Han and his team examined data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (years 2005 to 2014) in a paper published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Trends of self-reported past-month binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorder were examined among adults age 50 and older.

The researchers found significant increases in past-year alcohol use, past-month alcohol use, past-month binge drinking, and alcohol use disorders. The paper, “Demographic trends of binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorders among older adults in the United States, 2005-2014.” Published on-line 12 December 2016.

Binge Drinking Increased for Women

Results also suggest that while men had a higher prevalence of binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorders than women, binge alcohol use and alcohol use disorder increased among women in this nationally representative sample.

“As females age, they tend to experience a larger impact of physiological changes in lean body mass compared to men,” commented Dr. Han. “Thus, they may experience the adverse effects associated with consuming alcohol even in lower amounts.”

Risking Sexual Situations a Factor

“The increase in binge drinking among older women is particularly alarming” said Dr. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone. “Both men and women are at risk for getting themselves into risky sexual situations while drinking, but women are at particularly high risk.” Dr. Palamar also stated that “heavy drinking can not only have unintended health consequences, but it can also lead to socially embarrassing or regretful behavior.”

For the researchers, the results also raise public health concerns, given the significant increases in binge alcohol use among older adults who reported “fair/poor” health and/or multiple chronic conditions. This population is particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol as it can impact chronic disease management or increase the risk of injury.

“Health care providers need to be made aware of this increasing trend of unhealthy alcohol use, particularly among older females, and ensure that screening for unhealthy alcohol use is part of regular medical care for this population” said Dr. Han.

December 19th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »

Alcohol consumption shows no effect on coronary arteries

Researchers using coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) have found no association between light to moderate alcohol consumption and coronary artery disease (CAD), according to a study being presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Some previous studies have suggested that light alcohol consumption may actually reduce the risk for CAD. However, data regarding regular alcohol consumption and its association with the presence of CAD remains controversial. For the new study, researchers looked at alcohol consumption, type of alcohol consumed, and presence of coronary plaques using CCTA.

How Alcohol Contributes to Fatty Plaques

“CCTA is an excellent diagnostic modality to noninvasively depict the coronary wall and identify atherosclerotic lesions,” said study author Júlia Karády, M.D., from the MTA-SE Cardiovascular Imaging Research Group, Heart and Vascular Center at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary. “Furthermore, we’re able to characterize plaques and differentiate between several types. Prior studies used cardiovascular risk factors–like high cholesterol levels–and cardiovascular outcomes to study the effects of alcohol, but our study is unique in that we analyzed both drinkers and non-drinkers using CCTA, which may shed some light on how alcohol may or may not contribute to the development of fatty plaques in the arteries of the heart.”

The researchers studied 1,925 consecutive patients referred for CCTA with suspected CAD. Information on alcohol consumption habits was collected using questionnaires about the amount and type of alcohol consumed. Using an in-house reporting platform that contained the patients’ clinical and CCTA data, researchers were able to assess the relationship between atherosclerosis, clinical risk factors and patient drinking habits.

Light Alcohol Consumption Had No Effect

“About 40 percent of our patients reported regular alcohol consumption, with a median of 6.7 alcohol units consumed weekly,” Dr. Karády said.

One unit translates to approximately 2 deciliters (dl) or 6.8 fluid ounces of beer, 1 dl or 3.4 ounces of wine, or 4 centiliters (cl) or 1.35 ounces of hard liquor.

The results showed that the amount of weekly alcohol consumption, whether light or moderate, was not associated with the presence of CAD. In addition, when researchers looked at different types of alcohol and the presence of coronary atherosclerosis, no associations were found.

Neither Protective or Harmful Effects

“When we compared consumption between patients who had coronary artery plaques and those who had none, no difference was detected,” Dr. Karády said. “Evaluating the relationship between light alcohol intake (maximum of 14 units per week) and presence of CAD, we again found no association. Furthermore, we analyzed the effect of different types of alcohol (beer, wine and hard liquor) on the presence of CAD, but no relationship was found.”

Dr. Karády added that while no protective effect was detected among light drinkers, as previously thought, no harmful effects were detected either.

The researchers are in the process of expanding the study to include more patients and perform further analyses.

Independently of whether alcohol has any effect on the coronary arteries, moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with a number of potential side effects, including negative long-term effects on the brain and heart.

December 5th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »

Is Kratom an opioid alternative?

A delayed U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ban on kratom would stifle scientific understanding of the herb’s active chemical components and documented pharmacologic properties if implemented, according to a special report published today in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

The report cited the pharmacologically active compounds in kratom, including mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, paynantheine, speciogynine and 20 other substances, as one basis for further study. It also emphasized the extensive amount of anecdotal evidence and current scientific research that indicates kratom may be safer and less addictive than current treatments for pain and opioid withdrawal.

Kratom Does Not Depress Respiration

“There’s no question kratom compounds have complex and potential useful pharmacologic activities and they produce chemically different actions from opioids,” said author Walter Prozialeck, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Kratom doesn’t produce an intense euphoria and, even at very high doses, it doesn’t depress respiration, which could make it safer for users.”

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is indigenous to Southeast Asia, where the plant was used for centuries to relieve fatigue, pain, cough and diarrhea and aid in opioid withdrawal. Currently sold in the United States as an herbal supplement, kratom drew DEA scrutiny after poison control centers noted 660 reports of adverse reactions to kratom products between January 2010 and December 2015.

Source of Adverse Reactions Unclear

“Many important medications, including the breast cancer treatment tamoxifen, were developed from plant research,” said Prozialeck.

“While the DEA and physicians have valid safety concerns, it is not at all clear that kratom is the culprit behind the adverse effects,” said Anita Gupta, DO, PharmD and special advisor to the FDA.

A Non-Pharmaceutical Remedy?

Dr. Gupta, an osteopathic anesthesiologist, pain specialist and licensed pharmacist, has treated a number of patients who’ve used kratom. “Many of my patients are seeking non-pharmaceutical remedies to treat pain that lack the side effects, risk, and addiction potential of opioids,” she said.

Kratom is currently banned in states including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Wisconsin and Tennessee. The DEA is scheduled to decide whether to place kratom on its list of Schedule 1 drugs, a classification for compounds thought to have no known medical benefit. Marijuana, LSD and heroin are Schedule 1 drugs, which prevents the vast majority of U.S.-based researchers from studying those substances.

December 2nd, 2016  in Prescription Drugs No Comments »

Moms’ Sensitivity a Key to Preventing Early Substance Abuse

Research from the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions suggests the approach to preventing alcohol and drug use by some adolescents should begin in early childhood.

“The children of parents with alcohol problems are at much greater risk for underage drinking and developing a substance use disorder,” says the study’s author, Rina Das Eiden, PhD, senior research scientist at RIA. “It’s important to understand when and under what circumstances such problems develop, so we can craft interventions to steer this high-risk population away from substance use and its attendant problems.”

Pathway Begins Early for Children of Alcoholics

Eiden examined different pathways to adolescent substance use, starting in infancy, for children of parents with alcohol use disorder (AUD), and found that maternal warmth and sensitivity in early childhood played a significant role.

“When mothers can be warm and sensitive during interactions with their toddlers, even under the stresses associated with their partners’ alcohol problems, there is a lower likelihood of adolescent substance use,” Eiden says.

Drinking Parents Less Sensitive

Parents with AUD demonstrated lower rates of maternal sensitivity toward their toddlers, continuing into kindergarten age, Eiden found. As the children entered middle school (6th grade), their mothers were less likely to monitor peer groups and activities, leading to higher engagement with substance-using and delinquent peers and drinking in early adolescence (8th grade).

These children also displayed lower self-regulation, or the ability to behave according to rules without supervision, at preschool age, leading to problem behaviors from kindergarten age to early adolescence and higher alcohol and marijuana use in late adolescence.

Encouraging Mothers to Be Sensitive

The results have implications for both the timing and content of preventive interventions against substance use among adolescents of parents with AUD. Timing interventions in early childhood and before major developmental transitions, such as transition to school and moving from elementary to middle school, may be most beneficial.

For content, the most helpful interventions would be to encourage and support mothers in being warm and sensitive during interactions with their toddlers, and to keep a close eye their children’s activities and peer groups during the transition from middle childhood to early adolescence.

“This attention also would promote children’s self-regulation in the preschool years, which may lead to a decrease in problem behaviors from school age into adolescence,” Eiden says.

The article appears in the October issue of Developmental Psychology.

November 20th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »

Antibiotic may help in treatment of alcoholism

There are currently few effective therapies for alcohol use disorder (AUD), with only three FDA approved drugs along with behavioral modification programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Together or alone, none are particularly effective and relapse is common, making the development of new therapies vital.

A collaborative effort between Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) researchers Susan Bergeson, Ph.D., Joseé Guindon, Ph.D., Peter Syapin, Ph.D., clinicians David Edwards, M.D., David Trotter, Ph.D., and Deborah Finn, Ph.D., at Oregon Health and Science University has identified a potential new treatment for AUD.

“Recent research has used new technologies to identify genes and pathways related to neuroinflammation as part of alcohol’s action on addiction processes,” said Bergeson, associate professor in the TTUHSC Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience. “Minocycline, a tetracycline antibiotic normally used against bacterial infections, has known anti-inflammatory actions and recently was shown to reduce alcohol consumption.”

Tigercycline Is Also Anti-Inflammatory

In research described in four companion papers published by the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the teams first reported the screening of several tetracycline drugs to see if all were effective in reducing alcohol use.

The results pointed to a specific structural component of the drugs as responsible for positive outcomes and led to the discovery that tigecycline, a minocycline analog, was highly effective in reducing binge and chronic consumption, in both dependent and non-dependent animals.

Also Helps to Reduce Withdrawal Seizures

In addition, withdrawal seizures, which represent a medical emergency in humans, also were reduced in mice by tigecycline. Finally, binge drinking was shown to cause a persistent change in pain perception, which was reduced in males, but not females, by tigecycline.

The Bergeson, Finn, Guindon and Syapin labs’ research lead to the conclusion that tigecycline, already approved by the FDA for use in humans for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA infections, may be a good lead drug for the effective reduction of alcohol drinking, withdrawal symptoms and pain.

Already Approved by FDA

“We have known that high levels of alcohol consumption can cause damage to the liver and brain, but it has been more difficult to understand how AUD is cemented,” said Bergeson. “Every person knows a family member or close friend that struggles with AUD, and now with these findings, a simple antibiotic that is already FDA approved could help.”

November 20th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »

Video Games Influence Teens to Drink, Smoke

Images and references to alcohol and tobacco in popular video games may be influencing UK teens who play the games and the age restriction system is not working, according to a new study.

Experts from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at The University of Nottingham have carried out the first ever analysis of best-selling video games to find out the extent to which the games include this content and to assess the link between playing the games and drinking and smoking behaviour.

Twice as Likely to Smoke, Drink Alcohol

They found that teenagers who play video games featuring alcohol and tobacco references appeared to be directly influenced because they were twice as likely to have tried smoking or drinking themselves.

The research examined the content of 32 UK best-selling video games of 2012/2013 and carried out a large online survey of adolescents playing games with alcohol and tobacco content. An analysis of ‘cut scenes’ uploaded by gamers to YouTube from the five most popular games was also carried out. All the games studied were from the genres of stealth, action adventure, open world, shooter and survival/horror because they involve avatars that look and act like real people.

44% of Video Games Contain Alcohol, Tobacco

The study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found alcohol and tobacco content in 44% of the most popular video games. They also found this content was not reported by the official regulator, the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) system which informs the Video Standards Council age ratings that help parents decide whether game content is suitable for their children.

The researchers used YouGov survey tools to ask 1,094 UK adolescents aged 11-17 whether they had played any of the most popular video games identified as containing either tobacco or alcohol imagery. They were also asked whether and to what extent they smoked or drank alcohol. The study found that adolescents who had played at least one game with tobacco or alcohol content were twice as likely to have tried smoking or consumed alcohol themselves.

Grand Theft Auto, Black Ops

Out of the top five most popular games, Grand Theft Auto V & VI contained the highest level of alcohol and smoking content using fictitious brands only. The other top games containing these references were Call of Duty:Black Ops II, Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 3 and Assassin’s Creed III. There was no electronic cigarette content.

Psychologist Dr Joanne Cranwell from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, said “Although around 54% of UK adolescents play video games online, parental concern over exposure to inappropriate content while playing video games seems to be lower than for other media, like movies for example. While 80% of children aged 10-15 play packaged or online video games with an age rating higher than their age, more than half of British parents are unaware of the harmful content this exposes them to.

Descriptors Are Not Working

“Video games are clearly attractive to adolescents regardless of age classification. It appears that official PEGI content descriptors are failing to restrict youth access to age inappropriate content. We think that the PEGI system needs to include both alcohol and tobacco in their content descriptors. Also, game developers could be offered incentives to reduce the amount of smoking and drinking in their games or to at least reference smoking and drinking on their packaging and websites.

“As a child protection method it is naïve for both the games industry and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, who regulate the PEGI system, to rely on age ratings alone. Future research should focus on identifying the levels of exposure in terms of dose that youth gamers are exposed to during actual gameplay and the effects of this on long- term alcohol and smoking behaviour.”

October 27th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »

Drug-use may hamper moral judgment

Regular cocaine and methamphetamine users can have difficulty choosing between right and wrong, perhaps because the specific parts of their brains used for moral processing and evaluating emotions are damaged by their prolonged drug habits. This is according to a study among prison inmates by Samantha Fede and Dr. Kent Kiehl’s laboratory at the University of New Mexico and the nonprofit Mind Research Network. The findings of the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are published in Springer’s journal Psychopharmacology.

Research has shown that stimulant users often find it difficult to identify other people’s emotions, particularly fear, and to show empathy. These aspects play an important role in moral decision making. Other studies have pointed to structural and functional abnormalities in especially the frontal regions of their brains among stimulant users. These areas are engaged when moral judgments have to be made.

Drug Use and Criminal Behavior

There is strong link between drug use and criminal behavior, and up to 75 percent of inmates in the US have substance abuse problems. It is not known whether the criminal behavior is in part a result of the drugs’ effects on brain function.

Kiehl’s team is the first to examine how the neural networks and brain functioning of chronic cocaine and methamphetamine users in US jails relate to their ability to evaluate and decide about moral situations or scenarios. Poor judgment about moral situations can lead to poor decision making and subsequent antisocial behavior.

Chemical Changes in the Brain

The researchers recorded the life history of substance abuse of 131 cocaine and methamphetamine users and 80 non-users incarcerated in New Mexico and Wisconsin prisons. The participants’ brains were scanned while they completed a moral decision-making task in which they evaluated whether certain phrases were morally wrong or not.

Compared to the non-users, the regular stimulant users had abnormal neural activity in the frontal lobes and limbic regions of their brains during moral processing. Specifically, lifetime stimulant users showed less activity in the amygdala, a group of neurons in the brain that helps to regulate and understand emotions. The researchers also observed a relationship in the level of engagement of the anterior cingulate cortex: the longer people had been using stimulants, the less activity in this region. This is an area of the brain that coordinates reinforcement, effect and executive action needed in moral decision making.

Impaired Decision-Making

“This is the first study to suggest impairments in the neural systems of moral processing in both cocaine and methamphetamine users,” says lead author Fede. “Although further research into the connectivity of systems in stimulant use is needed, this provides promising initial understanding of fronto-limbic deficits in stimulant users.”

The research team acknowledges that people who are prone to regular stimulant use might already struggle with moral processing even before they begin to use drugs such as cocaine. The effects found related to use over time in the anterior cingulate cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, another region implicated in moral decision making, however, indicate that methamphetamine and cocaine may have a serious impact on the brain.

July 19th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »

Larger wine glasses may lead people to drink more

Selling wine in larger wine glasses may encourage people to drink more, even when the amount of wine remains the same, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge. In a study published today in the journal BMC Public Health, researchers found that increasing the size of wine glasses led to an almost 10% increase in wine sales.

Alcohol consumption is one of the leading risk factors for disease and has been linked to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and liver disease. The factors that influence consumption are not clear; a recent Cochrane review published by the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU) at the University of Cambridge found that larger portion sizes and tableware increased consumption of food and non-alcoholic drinks, but found no evidence relating to consumption of alcohol.

A Change of Perception?

To examine whether the size of glass in which alcohol is served affects consumption, the team at the BHRU, together with Professor Marcus Munafo from the University of Bristol, carried out a study in The Pint Shop in Cambridge from mid-March to early July 2015. The establishment has separate bar and restaurant areas, both selling food and drink. Wine (in 125ml or 175ml servings) could be purchased by the glass, which was usually a standard 300ml size.

Over the course of a 16-week period, the owners of the establishment changed the size of the wine glasses at fortnightly intervals, alternating between the standard (300ml) size, and larger (370ml) and smaller (250 ml) glasses.

The researchers found that the volume of wine purchased daily was 9.4% higher when sold in larger glasses compared to standard-sized glasses. This effect was mainly driven by sales in the bar area, which saw an increase in sales of 14.4%, compared to an 8.2% increase in sales in the restaurant. The findings were inconclusive as to whether sales were different with smaller compared to standard-sized glasses.

Drinking Faster With Larger Glasses?

“We found that increasing the size of wine glasses, even without increasing the amount of wine, leads people to drink more,” says Dr Rachel Pechey from the BHRU at Cambridge. “It’s not obvious why this should be the case, but one reason may be that larger glasses change our perceptions of the amount of wine, leading us to drink faster and order more. But it’s interesting that we didn’t see the opposite effect when we switched to smaller wine glasses.”

Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the Unit, adds: “This suggests that avoiding the use of larger wine glasses could reduce the amount that people drink. We need more research to confirm this effect, but if it is the case, then we will need to think how this might be implemented. For example, could it be an alcohol licensing requirements that all wine glasses have to be below a certain size?”

June 10th, 2016  in Alcohol No Comments »