NEAR WEST SIDE — A pair of University of Illinois at Chicago researchers are exploring how binge drinking might be linked to heart disease in young people.
"Binge drinking is the new arteriosclerotic disease," says Mariann Piano, head of biobehavioral science in the College of Nursing at UIC.
Piano and Shane Phillips, associate head of physical therapy in the College of Applied Sciences, are following the health and drinking of 150 people who are between the ages of 18 and 30. The two are paying particular attention to those subjects who have a blood biomarker called phosphatidylethanol, or PEth, which has been found to be significantly higher in binge drinkers.
Under a $420,000 federal grant, they are conducting tests to check for changes in blood pressure, arterial stiffness and other signs of vascular aging.
Binge drinking is defined by the researchers as individuals who consume more than four to five drinks in a two-hour period.
In a press release, Piano says binge drinking is "one of the most serious public health problems confronting American colleges." Studies have shown about 20 percent of students report three or more binging episodes in the previous two weeks, they say.
Young adults today are health conscious about food and exercise. But alcohol is a different matter, Piano said.
"There’s data to suggest that if you have bad drinking habits, they don’t just stop in college,” Piano said. “These kids are continuing to binge drink in their mid-20s and they haven’t stopped."
Piano says she and Phillips are "not against drinking" but they are for "teaching young people to be healthy consumers of alcohol.”