Commentary

Major Study Finds Even A Drink Or Two A Day Is Harmful To Health

A major study of alcohol consumption worldwide finds that alcohol is the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide -- and the safest amount of fermented spirits for anyone to drink is zero.

“Alcohol kills 2.8 million people every year globally, causing cancer, heart disease and road accidents and even by worsening tuberculosis,” according the the researchers. “They found no evidence that light drinking might help keep people healthy and said there’s no evidence that drinking any alcohol at all improves health,” reports NBC’s Maggie Fox.

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The research, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, used data from the “Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.” It was published in The Lancet

“The most surprising finding was that even small amounts of alcohol use contribute to health loss globally,” study author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, tells CNN’s Sandee LaMotte. “We're used to hearing that a drink or two a day is fine. But the evidence is the evidence.”

“Analyzing data from 15 to 95-year-olds, the researchers compared people who did not drink at all with those who had one alcoholic drink a day. They found that out of 100,000 non-drinkers, 914 would develop an alcohol-related health problem such as cancer or suffer an injury,” the BBC’s Laurel Ives reports.

“But an extra four people would be affected if they drank one alcoholic drink a day. For people who had two alcoholic drinks a day, 63 more developed a condition within a year and for those who consumed five drinks every day, there was an increase of 338 people, who developed a health problem,” Ives continues.

“This is a sobering report for the roughly 2 billion human beings who drink alcohol. The report challenges the controversial hypothesis that moderate drinking provides a clear health benefit. That notion took hold in the 1990s after news reports on the ‘French paradox’: The French have relatively low rates of heart disease despite a fatty diet. Some researchers pointed to red wine consumption among the French as potentially protective,” observes Joel Achenbach for the Washington Post.

It’s an even more sobering finding for the alcoholic beverage industry, which is expected to sell about $239 billion worth of beer, wine and spirits in the U.S. alone this year. Not to mention the new- and old-media beneficiaries of the millions of dollars companies spend advertising their potions every year.

“Current alcohol drinking habits pose ‘dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today,’ says the paper. Alcohol use contributes to health loss from many causes and exacts its toll across the lifespan, particularly among men,” reports Sarah Boseley for the Guardian.

“Drinking under the age of 15, a growing problem [in] other countries, was not included,” in the study published yesterday, according to CNN.

But a study by University of Michigan researchers released last month found that there has been a “surge of cirrhosis deaths among young adults,” according to the headline in USA Today.

“People ages 25 to 34 experienced a more than 10% spike in deaths due to cirrhosis, an irreversible scarring of the liver, between 2009 and 2016 — the highest of any age group in the study. The cases were ‘driven entirely’ by alcohol-related liver disease, researchers concluded,” Brett Molina reports. The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

I suspect that a study of benefits and risks of moderate drinking that was shut down by the National Institutes of Health earlier this summer might have reached a different conclusion that these studies have.

“Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Heineken Holding NV, Diageo PLC, Pernod Ricard USA LLC and other alcohol companies had agreed to pay for most of the $100 million study through donations to a private foundation that raises money for the NIH,” as Thomas M. Burton reported for the Wall Street Journal in June.

“It was going to be a study that could change the American diet, a huge clinical trial that might well deliver all the medical evidence needed to recommend a daily alcoholic drink as part of a healthy lifestyle,” Roni Caryn Rabin began her story that exposed the complicity in the New York Times in March.

Time will just how much of an effect these recently published studies have on both marketing -- should alcohol companies be allowed to sponsor collegiate sports teams and entire professional athletic leagues worldwide if it leads to “increased drinking amongst schoolchildren,” for example? -- as well as consumer behavior.

1 comment about "Major Study Finds Even A Drink Or Two A Day Is Harmful To Health".
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  1. George Harmon from HPD, August 24, 2018 at 12:04 p.m.

    Who is MELISSA Gates?

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