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Research Summary

Unhealthy Alcohol Use Is Associated with Unhealthy Eating Patterns

Researchers conducted a telephone survey of 12,037 adults aged 18–64 years living in and around Madrid, Spain, to measure the association between unhealthy alcohol use and poor dietary choices. Participants completed detailed 30-day alcohol and 24-hour food consumption questionnaires. Alcohol use was characterized as never drinker, former drinker, moderate drinker with or without heavy episodic drinking, and excessive drinker with or without heavy episodic drinking.* Reported consumption was compared with adherence to healthy eating guidelines.

  • Ten percent of participants reported heavy episodic drinking, and 4% reported excessive drinking.
  • Moderate drinkers with heavy episodic drinking were more likely than never drinkers to have >1 serving of meat per day (odds ratio [OR], 1.25).
  • Excessive drinkers without heavy episodic drinking were more likely than never drinkers to have <2 servings of milk products per day (OR, 1.54), >2 servings of meat, fish, and eggs per day (OR 1.46), and to skip meals (OR, 1.76).
  • Excessive drinkers with heavy episodic drinking were more likely than never drinkers to have <3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (OR, 1.71), <2 servings of milk products per day (OR, 1.47), >1 serving of meat per day (OR, 1.47), >2 servings of meat, fish, and eggs per day (OR 1.57), and to skip meals (OR, 2.73).
  • Participants who preferred beer or spirits were less likely than those with no beverage preference to meet healthy eating guidelines.
  • Participants who drank alcohol during meals (24% of sample) were less likely to adhere to healthy eating guidelines.
*In this study, moderate drinking was defined as <40 g alcohol per day in men and <24 g per day in women; excessive drinking was defined as ≥40 g alcohol per day for men and ≥24 g per day for women; and heavy episodic drinking was defined as ≥80 g alcohol per occasion for men and ≥60 g per occasion for women in the last 30 days.

Comments:

These findings suggest that adults with unhealthy alcohol use are less likely to adhere to healthy dietary guidelines. Although this study took place in Spain and generalizability to other countries is uncertain, clinicians should keep in mind that patients with unhealthy alcohol use also need to be counseled about healthy eating habits. Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc

Reference:

Valencia-Martin JL, Galan I, Rodriguez-Artalejo F. The association between alcohol consumption patterns and adherence to food consumption guidelines. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2011;35(11):2075–2081.

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