More older women are drinking hard

New research finds an increase in binge drinking among older women.

More older American women than ever are drinking — and drinking hard, a new study shows.

Most troubling was the finding that the prevalence of binge drinking among older women is increasing dramatically, far faster than it is among older men, the researchers noted.

The difference was striking: Among men, the average prevalence of binge drinking remained stable from 1997 to 2014, while it increased an average of nearly 4 percent per year among women, the researchers found.

Increased drinking and binge drinking can be a serious health problem for women, said study author Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist at the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Women don’t tolerate alcohol as well as men, and they start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men, Breslow explained.

She pointed out that on average, women weigh less than men, and have less water in their bodies than men do. (Alcohol dissolves in water).

“So, after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm,” Breslow said.

For the study, Breslow and her colleagues collected data on more than 65,000 men and women aged 60 and older who were current drinkers. Among these, more than 6,500 men and 1,700 women were binge drinkers.

Older adults, in general, are at greater risk of the effects of alcohol than younger adults, Breslow noted. “They’re more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, which can contribute to falls and other injuries, a major problem in older people,” she said.

As the U.S. population ages, the number of men and women 60 and older who drink will likely increase further, bringing with it more alcohol-related problems.

In the study, said Breslow, “we found that between 1997 and 2014, the proportion of older male drinkers in the U.S. population increased about 1 percent per year, and female drinkers increased nearly 2 percent per year.”

It’s not clear why this is happening, Breslow added.

“We did find that more younger boomers, ages 60 to 64, both men and women, were drinking than people of the same age in past generations,” Breslow added.

Whether drinking is increasing among certain racial or ethnic groups isn’t something the researchers analyzed, she said.

But alcohol can have devastating consequences, particularly for older adults, Breslow said.

“Too much drinking increases your chances of being injured or even killed. Alcohol is a factor, for example, in about 60 percent of fatal burn injuries, drownings and homicides; 50 percent of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults; and 40 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides and fatal falls,” she said.

In addition, heavy drinkers have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, stroke, bleeding from the stomach, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, and several types of cancer, Breslow said. They may also have problems managing diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.

“Think before you drink,” she said. Adults over age 65 who are healthy and do not take medications should not have more than three drinks a day or seven drinks in a week, Breslow said.

“Based on your health and how alcohol affects you, you may need to drink less or not at all,” she added.

Another alcohol abuse expert also felt that the rise in binge drinking among older women was the most concerning finding in the study.

“We know that, overall, women are more sensitive to the negative health consequences of alcohol than men,” said Dr. J.C. Garbutt, medical director of the University of North Carolina Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, in Chapel Hill.

“These consequences include liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and cognitive impairment — serious problems — and addiction to alcohol is possible as well,” he said.

Garbutt said he couldn’t explain the increase in binge drinking among older women.

“One would have to think there are major cultural factors at work, including the greater acceptability for women to drink, family structural changes, and perhaps greater access. But we really don’t know so it would be premature to speculate,” he said.

“Regardless, this speaks to the need to continue to educate the public about the harms of alcohol, including the increased risk to women and older individuals,” he said.

The report was published March 24 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

A study published last October also found the gap in drinking between men and women is closing.

Women across the globe are now nearly as likely as men to drink and to engage in excessive drinking, according to researchers with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia.


New study points to link between blue eyes, alcoholism.

  • New research out of the United States is pointing to a connection between blue eyes and alcoholism.According to the new study, people with blue eyes have a higher tendency to abuse alcohol than people with darker eyes.
  • The University of Vermont study published in the July issue of theAmerican Journal of Medical Geneticsfound a correlation between European American people with light-coloured eyes like blue, green, grey and light brown – have a higher tendency of alcoholism, with the highest levels of alcoholism found among subjects who had blue eyes.

    It seems simple and Dawei Li, an assistant professor at the school, and one of the study’s authors, admitted that “we still don’t know the reason” why the light colours are associated with heavy drinking.

    But the results do suggest “an intriguing possibility,” he said in a press release.

    Li’s co-author Arvis Sulovari said it does suggest “an intriguing possibility – that eye colour can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis.”

    The study’s results were borne out of a database of more than 10,000 people who had been diagnosed with at least one form of psychiatric illness, including depression, and schizophrenia, as well as drug and alcohol addiction.

    From that database, the study’s authors filtered out 1,263 alcohol-dependent people and retested three times after noticing the connection to eye colour.

    It’s not the first time scientists have looked at the eye’s association with alcohol. A 2000 study also noted that people with lighter eyes are “more likely than dark-eyed individuals to abuse alcohol.”

    That study suggested the higher consumption was linked with greater alcohol tolerance among people with light eyes.

    Are blue-eyed people more likely to consume large amounts of alcohol? One study says yes.


Gabapentin Treatment for Alcohol Dependence.

A Randomized Clinical Trial

Importance  Approved medications for alcohol dependence are prescribed for less than 9% of US alcoholics.

Objective  To determine if gabapentin, a widely prescribed generic calcium channel/γ-aminobutyric acid–modulating medication, increases rates of sustained abstinence and no heavy drinking and decreases alcohol-related insomnia, dysphoria, and craving, in a dose-dependent manner.

Design, Participants and Setting  A 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized dose-ranging trial of 150 men and women older than 18 years with current alcohol dependence, conducted from 2004 through 2010 at a single-site, outpatient clinical research facility adjoining a general medical hospital.

Interventions  Oral gabapentin (dosages of 0 [placebo], 900 mg, or 1800 mg/d) and concomitant manual-guided counseling.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Rates of complete abstinence and no heavy drinking (coprimary) and changes in mood, sleep, and craving (secondary) over the 12-week study.

Results  Gabapentin significantly improved the rates of abstinence and no heavy drinking. The abstinence rate was 4.1% (95% CI, 1.1%-13.7%) in the placebo group, 11.1% (95% CI, 5.2%-22.2%) in the 900-mg group, and 17.0% (95% CI, 8.9%-30.1%) in the 1800-mg group (P = .04 for linear dose effect; number needed to treat [NNT] = 8 for 1800 mg). The no heavy drinking rate was 22.5% (95% CI, 13.6%-37.2%) in the placebo group, 29.6% (95% CI, 19.1%-42.8%) in the 900-mg group, and 44.7% (95% CI, 31.4%-58.8%) in the 1800-mg group (P = .02 for linear dose effect; NNT = 5 for 1800 mg). Similar linear dose effects were obtained with measures of mood (F2 = 7.37; P = .001), sleep (F2 = 136; P < .001), and craving (F2 = 3.56; P = .03). There were no serious drug-related adverse events, and terminations owing to adverse events (9 of 150 participants), time in the study (mean [SD], 9.1 [3.8] weeks), and rate of study completion (85 of 150 participants) did not differ among groups.

Conclusions and Relevance  Gabapentin (particularly the 1800-mg dosage) was effective in treating alcohol dependence and relapse-related symptoms of insomnia, dysphoria, and craving, with a favorable safety profile. Increased implementation of pharmacological treatment of alcohol dependence in primary care may be a major benefit of gabapentin as a treatment option for alcohol dependence.

Soure: JAMA

Anticonvulsant Promising for Alcohol Dependence.

The anticonvulsant gabapentin, a widely prescribed anticonvulsant used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain, is showing promise in the treatment of alcohol dependence, new research suggests.

Results from a 12-week, randomized, placebo-controlled trial show that participants taking 1800 mg of gabapentin were twice as likely to refrain from heavy drinking and 4 times as likely to stop drinking altogether compared with participants taking placebo.

“Gabapentin’s effect on drinking outcomes is at least as large or greater than those of existing FDA-approved treatments,” lead researcher Barbara Mason, PhD, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, said in a statement.

The study was published online November 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Filling a Treatment Gap

According to investigators, gabapentin has the potential to fill a large gap in the treatment of alcohol dependence. They note that of the estimated 8.5 million alcohol-dependent Americans, statistics show that only 720,000 prescriptions were filled for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved medications for alcohol dependence in 2007, most of them prescribed by psychiatrists.

Previous studies of gabapentin for alcohol-dependent persons have suggested that the drug may be safe and effective, but conclusive results have been hampered by small sample size and methodologic or dosing issues.

To provide a more definitive evaluation of the drug for alcohol dependence, the researchers conducted a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, dose-ranging trial of 150 adults with current alcohol dependence who were attending a single outpatient center.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive 900 mg/day, 1800 mg/day, or placebo. All patients received concomitant counseling.

The study’s primary outcomes included sustained abstinence and no heavy drinking, and decreases in alcohol-related insomnia, dysphoria, and craving in a dose-dependent manner.

Results showed that gabapentin significantly improved the rates of abstinence and no heavy drinking with rates of 4.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1% – 13.7%) in the placebo group, 11.1% (85% CI, 5.2% – 22.2%) in the 900-mg group, and 17.0% (95% CI, 8.9% – 30.1%) in the 1800-mg group.

Further, the investigators report that the no-heavy-drinking rate was 22.5% (95% CI, 13.6% – 37.2%) in the placebo group, 29.6% (95% CI, 19.1% – 42.8%) in the 900-mg group, and 44.7% (95% CI, 31.4% – 58.8%) in the 1800-mg group.

In addition, the results showed that the drug significantly reduced cravings, depression, and sleeplessness. The researchers report that gabapentin had a favorable safety profile with no reports of serious adverse events.

According to Dr. Mason, gabapentin offers several potential advantages over the 3 other FDA-approved medications for alcohol dependence. It is “the only medication shown to improve sleep and mood in people who are quitting or reducing their drinking, and it’s already widely used in primary care ― that’s an appealing combination,” she said.

Broader Access to Treatment

In an accompanying editorial,Edward V. Nunes, MD, writes that the finding that gabapentin prevents relapse in alcohol-dependent patients is “an important development.”

“This well-designed and well-powered trial replicates the positive findings of several previous smaller trials,” Dr. Nunes writes.

He notes that a large proportion of alcohol-dependent patients presenting to family physicians fall into the mild to moderate range of alcohol dependence, which further suggests “the strong potential for gabapentin in the treatment of alcohol dependence in primary care.”

Acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Kenneth R. Warren, PhD, said, “Gabapentin adds to the list of existing medications that have shown promise in treating alcohol dependence. We will continue to pursue research to expand the menu of treatment options available for alcoholism in the hopes of reaching more people.”

How Exercise Can Moderate Brain Damage Caused by Drinking.



It’s well known that chronic, heavy drinking damages your brain and actually speeds up the brain shrinkage that occurs with age.  This is associated with memory loss, symptoms of dementia and cognitive decline.

Physical exercise is touted as one of the key ways to protect against brain shrinkage and other age-related brain changes, and now it appears it may help protect against some of the brain damage caused by drinking.

Exercise May Help Protect Your Brain From Alcohol-Related Damage

Among 60 long-time drinkers, those who were the most physically active had less damaged white matter in their brains compared to those who were less active.1The white matter is considered the “wiring” of your brain’s communication system, and is known to decline in quality with age and heavy alcohol consumption.

Although the study didn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers concluded that “exercise may protect WM [white matter] integrity from alcohol-related damage,” continuing:2

“We cannot say whether exercise would necessarily improve white matter damage in individuals with a history of heavy drinking.

However, our findings in combination with the many well-established positive physiological and psychological benefits of aerobic exercise suggest that aerobic exercise could be potentially helpful for individuals with history of heavy alcohol use.”

Exercise Protects Your Brain From Shrinkage, Slows Cognitive Decline

One of the effects of chronic heavy drinking is that it speeds the shrinkage of key regions in your brain. Exercise is useful in this area, as research has shown that people who engaged in the most physical exercise showed the least amount of brain shrinkage, a protective effect that was even greater than that offered by mentally stimulating activities.3

Exercise encourages your brain to work at optimum capacity by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage.

During exercise, nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. BDNF also triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health.

Scientific evidence shows that physical exercise helps you build a brain that not only resists shrinkage, but also increases cognitive abilities.4 In one review of more than 100 studies, both aerobic and resistance training were found to be important for maintaining cognitive and brain health in old age.5

Moderate exercise may even reverse normal brain shrinkage by 2 percent, effectively reversing age-related hippocampus degeneration, which is associated with dementia and poor memory, by one to two years.6 On the other hand, the people in the control group who didn’t exercise saw an average of 1.4 percentdecrease in hippocampus size.

Exercise is a Powerful Tool for Brain Health for Drinkers and Non-Drinkers Alike

The hippocampus region of your brain increases in size as a response to exercise, making this activity a powerful tool to fight the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The hippocampus, which is considered the memory center of your brain, is the first region of your brain to suffer shrinkage and impairment at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, leading to memory problems and disorientation.

Other contributing factors to brain disease caused by the normal aging process may also include a decrease in blood flow to your brain, and the accumulation of environmental toxins in your brain. Exercise can help ameliorate both of these conditions by increasing blood flow to your brain, thereby increasing oxygen supply to your brain and encouraging a more vigorous release and removal of accumulated toxins through better blood circulation.

If you’re a regular drinker, this becomes even more important, as alcohol is a neurotoxin that can poison your brain. Increased blood flow may also promote delivery of more of the nutrients necessary to keep your brain cells healthy in the first place.

Brain Exercises are Better than Drugs in Preventing Cognitive Decline

Exercise has been shown to be better than mentally stimulating activities like brain training exercises at protecting your brain, but mental “exercise” is still important. In fact, new research shows it works better than drugs in preventing cognitive decline. The analysis of 32 trials found that mental exercise, such as computer-based brain training programs or memory, reasoning and speed-processing exercises, protected against cognitive decline better than leading dementia drugs like donepezil. Research into brain plasticity has proven that your brain continues to make new neurons throughout life in response to mental activity, which means that cognitive function can be improved, regardless of your age, and cognitive decline can be reversed.

If you’re interested in mental exercises for your brain, Dr. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, who has pioneered research in brain plasticity for more than 30 years, has been instrumental in the development of a kind of “brain gym” environment — a computer-based brain training program that can help you sharpen a range of skills, from reading and comprehension to improved memorization and more. The program is called Brain HQ.7

“There are some very useful exercises in there that are for free, and you can actually drive improvements, for example, in brain speed, in the accuracy, with which the brain represents information in detail,” he says. “Basically, what you’re doing is reducing the chatter, the noisiness of the process of your brain. That impacts your capacity, for example, to record that information, to remember it. Because when the information is in its degraded form, when it’s fuzzy, when it’s imprecise, all of the uses of it – like your brain makes basically – are degraded.”

In the above-mentioned study, those who used computer-based training programs had significantly better memory and attention skills, improvements that were, in some cases, retained even five years later.

Another Reason for Chronic Heavy Drinkers to Take Up Exercise

There’s little doubt that exercise is one of the most important aspects of optimal health – not only for your brain but also for your entire body. That said, if you or someone you love has been affected by alcohol abuse, you know the great toll it can take on your personal relationships, work life and ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis, let alone fit in regular workouts.

The cravings for alcohol can become all-consuming and eventually an alcoholic does not feel “normal” until they’ve had a drink. The alcohol abuse inevitably throws off your circadian rhythm — the normal times you eat, sleep and wake up — as well, leading to a downward spiral of health and emotional effects. When you drink, it forces your brain to release unnaturally elevated levels of dopamine, a chemical your brain associates with rewarding behaviors. When you exercise, however, this same reward chemical is released, which means you can get the same “buzz” from working out that you can get from a six-pack of beer, with far better outcomes for your health.

This is why, if you know you’re prone to alcohol abuse or have a family history of alcohol addiction, exercising regularly can greatly reduce your risk of becoming dependent.

For those already addicted, exercise is beneficial too, and may actually help to lessen cravings. Research has found, in fact, that hamsters that ran the most consumed less alcohol, while less active hamsters had greater cravings for and consumption of alcohol.8  By replacing drinking with exercise, you may find that the rewarding feeling you get from exercise provides you with a suitable alternative to the rewarding feeling you previously got from alcohol.

What Type of Fitness Program is Best?

Ideally, to truly optimize your health, you’ll want to strive for a varied and well-rounded fitness program that incorporates a variety of exercises. As a general rule, as soon as an exercise becomes easy to complete, you need to increase the intensity and/or try another exercise to keep challenging your body. I recommend incorporating the following types of exercise into your program:

  • High-Intensity Interval (Anaerobic) Training: This is when you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.
  • Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you’re really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.
  • You can also “up” the intensity by slowing it down. For more information about using super slow weight training as a form of high-intensity interval exercise, please see my interview with Dr. Doug McGuff.
  • Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability. Exercise programs like Pilates and yoga are also great for strengthening your core muscles, as are specific exercises you can learn from a personal trainer.
  • Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is active isolated stretching developed by Aaron Mattes. With Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body’s natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique also allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity. You can also use devices like the Power Plate to help you stretch.


Alcohol calories ‘too often ignored’.


A large glass of wine contains more than 170 calories .

People watching their weight should pay closer attention to how much alcohol they drink since it is second only to fat in terms of calorie content, say experts.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, alcohol makes up nearly 10% of total calorie intake among drinkers.

Having a large glass of wine will cost you the same 178 calories as eating two chocolate digestive biscuits.

And it will take you more than a half hour’s brisk walk to burn off.

Empty calories

Eating or drinking too many calories on a regular basis can lead to weight gain.

Recent reports have shown that people are unaware of calories in drinks and don’t include them when calculating their daily consumption”

Kate Mendoza World Cancer Research Fund

But unlike food, alcoholic drinks have very little or no nutritional value.

The ’empty calories’ in drinks are often forgotten or ignored by dieters, says the WCRF.

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: “Recent reports have shown that people are unaware of calories in drinks and don’t include them when calculating their daily consumption.”

Containing 7kcal/g, alcohol is only slightly less calorific than fat, which contains 9kcal/g.

Protein and carbohydrates contain 4kcal/g and fibre 2kcal/g.

Men need around 2,500 calories a day, and women around 2,000.

“Cutting down on drinking can have a big effect on weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight,” said Ms Mendoza.

It can also reduce your risk of cancer, she said.

Alcohol has been linked with breast, bowel, mouth and liver cancer.

If you don’t want to abstain entirely, there are ways that can help you cut down, including opting for smaller glass sizes, diluting alcohol with soda water or a low-calorie soft drink, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and keeping a few nights each week booze-free.

WCRF has produced an Alcohol Calorie Calculator for different drinks that shows approximately how much exercise you would need to do to burn off the alcohol calories you consume.

Government guidelines recommend men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day, and women should limit themselves to 2-3 units a day.

A standard 175ml glass of wine contains about two units and a large 250ml glass contains about three units.

If you have had a heavy drinking session, you should avoid alcohol for at least 48 hours, experts advise.