New research has found that spreading your alcohol consumption across the week is more dangerous than binge drinking the same amount in one go.

For years, health officials have advised dispersing alcohol units over a number of days instead of saving them for a big drinking session on the weekend.

Now however, scientists in South Korea are warning against this advice - and say that the number of times a person drinks over the week raises the odds of an irregular heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation - which increases the risk of suffering a stroke by five times.

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The scientists studied the drinking habits of almost 10million people and found that those who had drank every day had a 40 percent higher risk of atrial fibrillation than those who only consumed alcohol twice a week.

Consuming large amounts of alcohol per drinking session, or "binge drinking", did not show any links to AF, the researchers said.

"'Repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation triggered by alcohol may lead to overt disease," said study author Dr Jong-Il Choi, of Korea University College of Medicine and Korea University Anam Hospital, Seoul.

"In addition, drinking can provoke sleep disturbance which is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation."

While New Zealanders are drinking much less than 20 years ago, bucking a global trend of rising alcohol consumption - one-in-three New Zealanders are still binge-drinking regularly, a study published in the prestigious Lancet journal shows.

Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Nicki Jackson said the per capita fall in consumption was positive, but it also masked New Zealand's heavy drinking culture.

"It is really a problem with our middle-aged and older adults - we have made no progress in that regard," she said.

"And this is going to cost us in chronic disease. It is going to cost us in cancers, in heart disease, in dementia. We've got to turn down the tap."

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