Excessive drinking among young adult boys has been linked to hypertension in later life, while low to moderate alcohol use in their female counterparts has been associated with low risk of hypertension later on. These results of a study led by Sarah Twichell from the Boston Children's Hospital will be presented at the ASN Kidney Week 2014 Nov. 11-16 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

It’s a well-known fact that binge drinking leads to increased blood pressure in adult males, but this was the first study to assess the health risks of excessive drinking among young male adults. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This accounts to five or more drinks within two hours in men and four or more drinks in women.

The researchers examined data from the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS), which tracked children who were 8 to 14 years old in 1996 and followed up with detailed surveys every one to two years.

Totally, 8,605 participants were examined.

The study found that:

  • In young adult men, binge drinking in the last year increased the risk of developing hypertension by 1.7 times.
  • Excessive drinking in adolescent males was not found to be significantly associated with the risk of developing hypertension.
  • In young adult women, binge drinking was not associated with hypertension.
  • Light and moderate alcohol use in young adult women was associated with a significantly reduced likelihood of hypertension.

This is indeed an important study at a time when binge drinking among underage Americans is on the rise. "Further study of alcohol use in young adulthood may provide insights into the early development of hypertension," said Twichell in a press release.

A study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that there were 10.8 million underage (between 12 to 20 years of age) Americans who consumed alcohol, of which 7.2 million were binge drinkers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by underage youth in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

Binge drinking has been associated with neurocognitive impairments and deficits in working memory operations in binge drinkers. Binge drinking is also associated with other health problems, such as accidental injuries, alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases, sexual dysfunction, and uncontrolled diabetes.

The burden of binge drinking also affects the government in the form of a $223.5 billion annual loss due to decreased productivity, alcohol-related health care costs, and other expenses. 

Source: Twichell S. Adolescent Alcohol Use and the Development of Hypertension in Early Adulthood. ASN Kidney Week. 2014.