New American research has found evidence to support the long-term belief that those living in areas of the world where shorter and cooler days drink more alcohol can put people at greater risk of liver disease.
Developed by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Gastroenterology Division, the new study set out to investigate whether living in a colder, darker climate causes people to consume more alcohol and what effect this might have on the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis.
The researchers gathered information on 193 sovereign countries, as well as about 50 states and 3144 counties in the United States, using World Health Organization data, the World Meteorological Organization and the Institute of Metrology and Health Assessment.
They then analyzed associations of climatic factors such as average temperature and sunshine hours, alcohol consumption (measured as total intake of alcohol per capita), the percentage of people drinking alcohol and the rate of alcohol consumption.
The results, published online in Hepatology, showed that as the temperature and the number of hours of day decreased, alcohol consumption increased.
Researchers have also found evidence suggesting that colder and darker days also contribute to binge drinking and a higher rate of alcoholic liver disease, one of the leading causes of death in those with excessive alcohol consumption prolonged. The same results were found both in comparing countries around the world and comparing the counties of the United States.
"It's something that everyone has assumed for decades, but nobody has demonstrated it scientifically, why did people in Russia drink so much, why in Wisconsin?" Everyone assumes that's because it's cold, "said lead author Ramon Bataller, MD." But we did not find any climate-related work on alcohol or alcoholic cirrhosis. This is the first study to systematically demonstrate that there is more alcohol and cirrhosis in the world and in America, in cooler areas and in less sunny areas. "
The team mentioned that they also considered other factors that could influence how much the population drinks, for example, most of the Arab populations living in hot, desert hotspots with a high number of hours of sunshine would refrain from to alcohol.
Researchers also controlled health factors that could aggravate the effects of alcohol on the liver, such as viral hepatitis, obesity and smoking.
"It's important to highlight many factors of confusion," said lead author Meritxell Ventura-Cots, Ph.D. "I tried to control how many I could. For example, I tried to control religion and how it influences alcohol habits."
They explained that those in a colder climate can drink because alcohol is a vasodilator, which means it increases the flow of warm blood on the skin, which is full of temperature sensors and can increase the feelings of heat. Consumption is also related to depression, which tends to be worse during the winter months and when there is less sunlight.