Background: Areca nut, more commonly known as betel nut, is the fourth most commonly used addictive substance in the world. Though recent evidence suggests it may play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease, no studies have investigated whether betel nut use is related to subclinical atherosclerosis.
Methods: We evaluated the association between betel nut use and subclinical atherosclerosis in 1206 participants randomly sampled from the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS). Frequency and duration of betel nut use were assessed at baseline, and carotid IMT was measured on average 6.65 years after baseline.
Results: A positive association was observed between duration and cumulative exposure (function of duration and frequency) of betel nut use and IMT, with above-median use for duration (7 or more years) and cumulative exposure (30 or more quid-years) corresponding to a 19.1 μm [95% confidence interval (CI): 5.3-32.8; P ≤ 0.01] and 16.8 μm (95% CI: 2.9-30.8; P < 0.05) higher IMT in an adjusted model, respectively. This association was more pronounced in men [32.8 μm (95% CI: 10.0-55.7) and 30.9 μm (95% CI: 7.4-54.2)]. There was a synergy between cigarette smoking and above-median betel use such that the joint exposure was associated with a 42.4 μm (95% CI: 21.6-63.2; P ≤ 0.01) difference in IMT.
Conclusion: Betel nut use at long duration or high cumulative exposure levels is associated with subclinical atherosclerosis as manifested through carotid IMT. This effect is especially pronounced among men and cigarette smokers.
Keywords: Areca nut; Bangladesh; betel nut; cardiovascular disease; carotid intima-media thickness.
© The Author 2014; all rights reserved. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Epidemiological Association.