Regular low-level alcohol consumption may be a bigger risk factor for new-onset atrial fibrillation than binge drinking, according to a paper published online in.
Alcohol consumption is known to have a dose-dependent association with the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation (AFib), but the mechanism underlying this association was not clear, according to, from the Seoul National University (South Korea), and coauthors.
They analyzed data from the Korean National Health Insurance Service database for 9,776,956 individuals without atrial fibrillation at baseline, including health survey information about their alcohol consumption.
Overall, 51.3% of the study population were classified as nondrinkers, 32.1% were mild drinkers – defined as up to 105 g of alcohol consumed per week – 9.7% were moderate drinkers consuming 105-210 g/week, and 6.9% were heavy drinkers consuming 210 g or more per week.
The analysis revealed that heavy drinkers had the highest risk for new-onset AFib – 21.5% higher than mild drinkers – while nondrinkers had an 8.6% higher risk and moderate drinkers had a 7.7% higher risk, compared with mild drinkers.
It also showed an association between the number of drinking sessions per week and the development of new-onset atrial fibrillation. Individuals who only drank once per week had the lowest risk of AFib while those who drank every day had the highest.
“Although weekly alcohol intake was associated with the risk of new-onset [AFib], such association was lost when drinking frequency was included in the multivariate model,” the authors wrote.
They found a significant inverse relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed per drinking session, and the risk of new-onset AFib, such that individuals who consumed low amounts of alcohol per session had a higher risk, and the risk decreased as higher amounts were consumed.
“Regardless of whether weekly alcohol intake exceeded 210 g, the frequency of drinking was significantly associated with risk of new-onset [AFib],” they reported. “Patients who drink everyday represented the highest-risk group and those who drink once per week were the lowest-risk group for new-onset [AFib] in this investigation, respectively.”
The authors speculated that if alcohol consumption can trigger AFib, then multiple drinking episodes per week, regardless of amount, might trigger more episodes of AFib and potentially lead to the development of overt, new-onset disease. They also suggested that frequent drinking could lead to regular sleep disturbance, which might also contribute to the link with atrial fibrillation.
The study was supported by Korea University, Korea University Anam Hospital, Republic of Korea, the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning. No conflicts of interest were declared.
SOURCE: Kim YG et al. EP Europace. 2019 Oct 17. .