Harvard Heart Letter

The boozy business meal: Costly for your heart?

Research we're watching

boozy business meal
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For some busy professionals—especially those who travel for work—a typical day's fare comes mostly from restaurants, topped off by a cocktail hour and a steak dinner with colleagues.

This unhealthy routine, which a team of researchers dubbed a "social-business" pattern of eating, appears to raise the risk of early signs of atherosclerosis—the fatty accumulation inside arteries that can lead to heart disease. The team's findings, published in the Aug. 23, 2016, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, were based on a study of more than 4,000 male and female bank employees, ages 40 to 55, with no symptoms of heart disease.

Diet surveys revealed that about 40% of them followed a plant-based Mediterranean-style eating pattern. Another 41% followed a Western diet, which included more animal-based foods. But 19% followed a social-business eating style, marked by frequent snacking and restaurant meals that featured red and processed meat, sugary drinks, and alcohol. Imaging tests showed that people in this group were more likely to have early signs of atherosclerosis than people in the other two groups.