Posted by on April 9, 2014 - 8:26am

The increased risk of death associated with alcohol intake is not the same for men and women. A study that compared the amount of alcohol consumed and death from all causes among nearly 2.5 million women and men showed that the differences between the sexes became greater as alcohol intake increased, as described in an article in Journal of Women’s Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Journal of Women’s Health website.

In the article “Effect of Drinking on All-Cause Mortality in Women Compared with Men: A Meta-Analysis,” Chao Wang and coauthors, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical Sciences (Beijing, China), modeled the relationship between the dose of alcohol consumed and the risk of death, comparing the results for drinkers versus non-drinkers and among male and female drinkers. Females had an increased rate of all-cause mortality conferred by drinking compared with males, especially in heavy drinkers.

“While alcoholism is more common in men than women, female drinkers face greater risks to their health compared with male drinkers,” says Susan G. Kornstein, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women’s Health, Executive Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, Richmond, VA, and President of the Academy of Women’s Health.

New Rochelle, NY, April 9, 2014

Posted by on May 13, 2013 - 12:25pm

The density of bones, measured as bone mineral density (BMD), is strongly related to osteoporosis.  Elderly women with osteoporosis, in particular, are at increased risk of fractures of the hip, arm, and spine; such fractures often relate to severe disability.  With data on alcohol collected as part of a clinical trial on the prevention of osteoporosis, investigators in Finland have related alcohol consumption to changes over three years in BMD.  After those excluded due to incomplete data, data on 300 women were available for analysis.  The majority of women were abstainers or consumed little alcohol.  Nevertheless, the results support much earlier research: regular, moderate drinking is associated with higher levels of BMD (i.e., lower risk of osteoporotic fractures) than is abstinence.

Data from European surveys have shown that women in Finland tend to have high levels of osteoporosis and to drink very little; hence the increase in BMD associated with alcohol intake, even though slight, could be important in this population.  Over the past three decades, there has been an increase in alcohol consumption in Finland, especially a marked increase in the consumption of wine.  Hence, some Forum reviewers thought that the improvement in BMD among drinkers in this study may have been primarily from wine (which may have additional components, other than alcohol, that relate to BMD).  However, the number of subjects was not large enough to test this hypothesis in the present study.  Overall, this study supports the premise that moderate alcohol intake, along with an adequate calcium intake and vitamin D and exercise, may have a favorable influence on the risk of developing osteoporosis

Forum reviewers, as did the authors, noted a number of limitations of the study: a rather small cohort with a very low intake of alcohol, a short duration of follow up, and rather small differences according to whether the women consumed alcohol or not.

Reference:  Sommer I, Erkkilä AT, Järvinen R, Mursu J, Sirola J, Jurvelin JS, Kröger H, Tuppurainen M.  Alcohol consumption and bone mineral density in elderly women.  Public Health Nutr 2013;16:704-712.  doi: 10.1017/S136898001200331X.

Posted by on November 10, 2012 - 10:53am

Heavy drinking during pregnancy disrupts proper brain development in children and adolescents years after they were exposed to alcohol in the womb, according to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health. The study is the first to track children over several years to examine how heavy exposure to alcohol in utero affects brain growth over time.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, researchers found that brain growth patterns in children whose mothers drank heavily while pregnant differed from normal patterns of development seen in children who were not exposed to alcohol before birth.

The findings suggest that children with heavy alcohol exposure have decreased brain plasticity – the brain's ability to grow and remodel itself based on experience with the outside world. Such adaptation continues throughout one’s life and is crucial to learning new skills and adapting to the environment.

"This study documents the long-term impact of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure on brain development," said Ken R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which provided most of the funding for the study.

"It underscores that heavy drinking during pregnancy often has lasting consequences for the child’s growth and development, and reminds us that women who are, who may be, or who are trying to become pregnant, should not drink alcohol."

The study currently appears online in the Oct. 31, 2012 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

During normal development, brain volume increases rapidly at a young age as new neural connections are formed, and then decreases in certain regions during adolescence as underused brain connections are cleared away to increase efficiency. While unexposed children showed this pattern of robust growth and reduction in the brain’s outmost layer, known as the cerebral cortex, those heavily exposed to alcohol typically only lost cortical volume.

In addition, heavier alcohol exposure was linked to lower intelligence, greater facial abnormalities, and little change in brain volume between scans.

The study findings may have implications for developing early treatments that could correct or improve these patterns of abnormal brain development.   The study authors write that this work may also help to understand and treat other disorders with abnormal brain growth in childhood and adolescence, such as autism.

This study was performed in conjunction with the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, a consortium of FASD researchers supported by NIAAA. (More information at:




Posted by on September 7, 2012 - 8:02am

An analysis among more than 40,000 postmenopausal women who were in the California Teachers Study was carried out to determine if there were differences in risk of breast cancer among women consuming alcohol according to their previous or current use of hormone therapy (HT).  In the cohort, 660 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during follow up.

Results showed an increase in risk of breast cancer among alcohol consumers of more than 20 grams of alcohol per day (about 1 ½ to 2 typical drinks) who were current users of HT but not among those who were ex-users of HT.  The authors conclude: “Following the cessation of HT use, alcohol consumption is not significantly associated with breast cancer risk, although a non-significant increased risk was observed among women who never used HT.  Our findings confirm that concurrent exposure to HT and alcohol has a substantial adverse impact on breast cancer risk.  However, after HT cessation, this risk is reduced.”

Forum reviewers considered this to be a very well done analysis on a large group of post-menopausal women with repeated assessments of alcohol consumption and HT use.  However, results from even very large studies on the relation between alcohol, HT, and breast cancer risk have often been conflicting.  Even with numerous studies on this topic, we still have very poor predictors of which women will develop breast cancer.  There is some increase in risk for women with a family history of such cancers and those who are obese.  However, the percentage increases in risk associated with HT, alcohol consumption, and other environmental factors are generally small (unlike the many-fold increase in the risk of lung cancer among smokers in comparison with never smokers).  This may explain why the results of individual studies may reach apparently conflicting conclusions.  While the present study suggests that women who consume alcohol may have a decrease in their risk of breast cancer if they stop taking hormone replacement therapy, our current understanding of factors affecting breast cancer risk remains quite inadequate.

Reference:  Horn-Ross PL, Canchola AJ, Bernstein L, Clarke CA, Lacey JV, Neuhausen SL, Reynolds P, Ursin G.  Alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women following the cessation of hormone therapy use: the California Teachers Study.  Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2012. [Epub ahead of print]