Association between patterns of alcohol consumption (beverage type, frequency and consumption with food) and risk of adverse health outcomes: a prospective cohort study


Background: Alcohol consumption is a leading contributor to death and disability worldwide, but previous research has not examined the effects of different patterns of alcohol consumption. The study objective was to understand the relationship between different alcohol consumption patterns and adverse health outcomes risk, adjusting for average amount consumed among regular drinkers. Methods: This was a prospective cohort study of UK Biobank (UKB) participants. Abstainers, infrequent alcohol consumers or those with previous cancer, myocardial infarction (MI), stroke or liver cirrhosis were excluded. We used beverage type, consumption with food and consumption frequency as exposures and adjusted for potential confounding. All-cause mortality, major cardiovascular events-MACE (MI/stroke/cardiovascular death), accidents/injuries, liver cirrhosis, all-cause and alcohol-related cancer incidence over 9-year median follow-up period were outcomes of interest. Results: The final sample size for analysis was N = 309,123 (61.5% of UKB sample). Spirit drinking was associated with higher adjusted mortality (hazard ratio (HR) 1.25; 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.14–1.38), MACE (HR 1.31; 95% CI 1.15–1.50), cirrhosis (HR 1.48; 95% CI 1.08–2.03) and accident/injuries (HR 1.10; 95% CI 1.03–1.19) risk compared to red wine drinking, after adjusting for the average weekly alcohol consumption amounts. Beer/cider drinkers were also at a higher risk of mortality (HR 1.18; 95% CI 1.10–1.27), MACE (HR 1.16; 95% CI 1.05–1.27), cirrhosis (HR 1.36; 95% CI 1.06–1.74) and accidents/injuries (HR 1.11; 95% CI 1.06–1.17). Alcohol consumption without food was associated with higher adjusted mortality (HR 1.10; 95% CI 1.02–1.17) risk, compared to consumption with food. Alcohol consumption over 1–2 times/week had higher adjusted mortality (HR 1.09; 95% CI 1.03–1.16) and MACE (HR 1.14; 95% CI 1.06–1.23) risk, compared to 3–4 times/week, adjusting for the amount of alcohol consumed. Conclusion: Red wine drinking, consumption with food and spreading alcohol intake over 3–4 days were associated with lower risk of mortality and vascular events among regular alcohol drinkers, after adjusting for the effects of average amount consumed. Selection bias and residual confounding are important possible limitations. These findings, if replicated and validated, have the potential to influence policy and practice advice on less harmful patterns of alcohol consumption.

BMC Medicine