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Influence of pattern of alcohol intake on blood pressure in regular drinkers: a controlled trial

Rakic, Valentina1,2; Puddey, Ian B.1; Burke, Valerie1; Dimmitt, Simon B.1; Beilin, Lawrence J.1

Original article

Objective To evaluate the effects of patterns of drinking (weekend versus daily drinking) on the pressor responses to alcohol in 55 male drinkers using clinic and 24 h ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.

Design A randomized, controlled cross-over trial.

Methods Recruitment required a regular alcohol intake of 210–500 ml absolute alcohol/week, with > 60% consumed as beer. Fourteen subjects were categorized as predominantly weekend drinkers, whereas the remaining 41 subjects regularly drank on a daily basis. After 4 weeks of familiarization, all subjects were randomly allocated to drinking low-alcohol beer (0.9% vol: vol) only or to maintain their usual drinking habits with provision of full-strength beer (5% vol: vol) for 4 weeks. They then switched back to their usual drinking habits or low-alcohol beer, respectively, for a further 4 weeks while maintaining their usual drinking pattern.

Results Baseline ambulatory systolic blood pressure in weekend but not in daily drinkers was 2.4 mmHg higher on Monday than it was on Thursday (P = 0.02). This Monday-Thursday difference was lost during intervention. When subjects switched from the high-alcohol to the low-alcohol period the falls in ambulatory systolic blood pressure in weekend (3.1 mmHg, P < 0.001) and daily drinkers (2.2 mmHg, P < 0.001) were similar. Most of the fall was evident during week 1 of the low-alcohol period for weekend drinkers but not until week 4 for daily drinkers.

Conclusion The pressor response to alcohol consumption is similar in magnitude in weekend and daily drinkers, present throughout a 24 h period and has a rapid onset/offset in weekend drinkers but is more sustained in daily drinkers.

1University Department of Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital and the West Australian Heart Research Institute, Australia.

2Correspondence and requests for reprints to Valentina Rakic, University Department of Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, Box X2213 GPO Perth, Western Australia 6001, Australia. Tel: +61 9 224 0247; fax: +61 9 224 0246; e-mail:

Sponsorship: This research was supported by a programme grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Australian Brewers Foundation and the Royal Perth Hospital Medical Research Foundation.

Received 10 June 1997 Revised 22 September 1997 Accepted 22 October 1997

© 1998 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.