Alcohol has been linked to a considerable burden of disease worldwide. Recent epidemiological research has shown that dimensions of alcohol exposure other than average volume are causal in the etiology of disease. Based on a systematic, computer-assisted search, this article attempts a qualitative review of this literature. Results show that cardiovascular disease, especially ischaemic heart disease, is linked to patterns of drinking: regular and light to moderate drinking, and drinking with meals are cardioprotective; heavy drinking occasions have been associated with detrimental outcomes and increases in disease risk. For cancers, consumption of spirits is linked to higher risk of cancers of the upper digestive tract. Spirits also may play a particular role in causing liver cirrhosis in addition to heavy drinking occasions. Finally, injuries are especially related to high blood alcohol concentration and to the frequency of heavy drinking occasions. Overall, these findings strongly indicate that alcohol epidemiology should include adequate pattern measures into future research. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract).
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