Analysis

Should recommended alcohol consumption limits be reduced? - International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research Critique 214

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Using individual-participant data from a number of large studies, predominantly from the UK and other European countries, the authors of a recent study have estimated the association between the reported level of alcohol intake among drinkers with cardiovascular outcomes and mortality. The researchers conclude that the lowest risk of these outcomes is from the intake of less than 100g of alcohol per week, and that guidelines for the public should reduce the upper limits for the amount of alcohol that could be safely consumed.

The latest critique from the ISFAR considers consumption research that suggests a lowering of the recommended limit

The latest critique from the ISFAR considers consumption research that suggests a lowering of the recommended limit

ISFAR members identified a number of flaws in these analyses, including failure to separate advice for men versus women, or for older adults versus young people. Furthermore, the authors do not point out either the effects of under-reporting of intake or the marked differences in many health effects according to type of alcoholic beverage - such differences are shown only in their supplement, but not mentioned in the abstract. Also, there is little discussion of the importance of the pattern of drinking on health results.

Most importantly, by excluding never-drinkers as a reference group in their main analyses, the authors have essentially eliminated the ability to evaluate for any potentially beneficial (or adverse) effects of light-to-moderate drinking compared to non-drinking. This is problematic as, in essentially all previous large studies, moderate drinkers are those for whom significant and large benefits have been reported for risk of cardiovascular disease and total mortality.

Guidelines for consumers regarding alcohol intake relate to many factors, including the net overall physiological effects on health as well as the particular needs of different countries and cultures. And, as in this study, the inclusion of results from so many different cultures is a problem for determining appropriate guidelines for alcohol intake.

Given that culturally-specific drinking patterns, type of beverage and many other lifestyle factors modify the health effects of alcohol, mixing data from markedly different cultures may give results that may not be appropriate for any specific population.

To read the full critique, click here.

These critiques are published with the permission of The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research.

Click here for all of the critiques from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research


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