Binge drinking 'doubles heart risk'
Binge drinkers have a risk of heart disease twice that of people who consume the same amount of alcohol but more steadily, researchers say.
The study compared 10,000 male drinkers from "booze-bingeing" Belfast and "moderate" France over 10 years.
It concluded that downing lots of alcohol in one or two sessions is worse than drinking more regularly in a week.
Experts said the British Medical Journal work reinforced what was known but was a wake-up call for bingers.
Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "This reinforces what we already know - that drinking high levels of alcohol can be harmful to your heart.
"It's important to avoid binge drinking and it's better to have a small amount of alcohol regularly rather than large amounts in one go. If you do drink, it's important to keep within the recommended limits."
The official advice in the UK is that women should not regularly drink more than two to three units (about two glasses of wine or one pint of beer) a day and men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day.
In the study, some 9% of the middle-aged men in Belfast were binge drinkers, consuming at least three pints of beer or five glasses of wine in one sitting, mostly on a weekend, compared with 0.5% of those in France.
The French men tended to drink less alcohol in each sitting but drank more regularly.
Three-quarters of the French men drank daily, compared with 12% in Belfast.
The researchers found the men who were binge drinkers had nearly twice the risk of heart attack or death from heart disease compared with regular drinkers over the 10 years of follow up.
Professor Jean Ferrières, from Toulouse University Hospital, who carried out the research, believes the irregular pattern of drinking is to blame.
Another reason for the higher risk of heart disease in Belfast, said the authors, could be that more men there tended to drink beer and spirits than wine - the opposite of what the men in France tended to drink.