Methods: A 24-h dietary recall interview was conducted on 13 025 men and 23 009 women, aged 35–74 years, from 27 centres participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Means and standard errors of alcohol consumption, adjusted for age, were calculated, stratified by gender and centre.
Results: In many centres, higher level drinkers (males consuming >24 g of ethanol/day, equivalent to >2 standard drinks and females consuming >12 g of ethanol/day equivalent to >1 standard drink) obtained more energy from fat and protein and less from sugar than did abstainers. The proportion of energy from starch tended to be higher for male and lower for female higher level drinkers than for abstainers. Female higher level drinkers had a lower body mass index than did abstainers, whereas male higher level drinkers generally weighed more. Male higher level drinkers were less educated than abstainers in Mediterranean countries, but were more educated elsewhere. Female higher level drinkers were usually more educated than were abstainers. Outside the home, consumption (both genders) tended to be at friends' homes, particularly among men in Northern and Central Europe, and in bars in Spain.
Conclusions: This study reveals clear geographical differences in drinking habits across Europe, and shows that the characteristics of different alcohol consumption categories also vary.