Critiques from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research
By: International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research
The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research hosts forums that look at research conducted around the world on the relationship between alcohol consumption and health.
The ISFAR recently considered a review paper on the effects of binge drinking on the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), noting that it provides considerable information on a topic of importance to public health.
It has long been recognised from epidemiologic studies that both the positive and negative health effects of alcohol consumption are modified by an individual's socio-economic status (SES). Higher SES subjects (higher education, income, job status, etc.) are more likely to be regular moderate drinkers, while lower SES subjects are more likely to binge drink and under-report their alcohol intake.
In a follow-up analysis of almost 50,000 young women, aged 30 to 49 at baseline, in the Swedish Women’s Lifestyle and Health cohort, researchers used self-reported information on alcohol consumption on two occasions, 12 years apart, to estimate the effects of alcohol on overall and cause-specific mortality.
Data from epidemiologic studies that looks at the relationship between alcohol consumption and the different types of stroke is quite consistent: For ischemic stroke, an inverse association with moderate drinking and a possible increase with heavy drinking (a j-shaped curve); For hemorrhagic stroke, a direct positive association, although some studies suggest that there may be a threshold level for an increase in risk.
Scientific research on the association of alcohol consumption with the risk of prostate cancer has been mixed.
Observational epidemiologic studies relating alcohol consumption to health and disease have been remarkably consistent over many decades: light to moderate alcohol intake is related to improved cardiovascular health and less diabetes, while heavy intake and binge drinking relate primarily to adverse cardiovascular and other disease outcomes.
Carotid artery disease can be estimated by ultrasound from the thickness of the wall of the arteries (recorded as carotid artery intima/medial thickness, cIMT) and by evidence of atherosclerotic plaques within the carotid arteries. The association between alcohol intake and such lesions is unclear, as some studies show a positive association with cIMT and/or plaques while others show no association.
A recent review article appearing in Food & Function, a publication of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK, presents a summary of evidence-based scientific data relating the moderate consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages to health.
Previous scientific research has shown that heavy alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for upper aero-digestive cancers, and even light drinking increases slightly the risk of breast cancer in women. A recent study is based on a very small number of cases of cancer in New Zealand, tabulated separately for Maori and non-Maori subjects. The research applies estimates of alcohol effects from other population-based studies.
Skin cancers, whether melanoma, basal cell, or squamous cell, are all increased by ultra-violet rays of the sun, and such cancers are much more common in areas of the world with more sun exposure. The risk of such cancers, however, is higher among individuals reporting excessive tanning. A recent study was undertaken to judge the relation between alcohol consumption and the risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC), an association that is unclear from earlier research.
A large study from Denmark was designed to test the hypothesis that women who increase their alcohol intake over a five-year period have a higher risk of breast cancer and a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) compared with women who exhibit a stable alcohol intake.
A recent study in Denmark tested the hypothesis that alcohol consumption, both observational (self-reported) and estimated by genetic instruments, is associated with the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) and to determine whether people with high cardiovascular risk are more sensitive towards alcohol than people with low risk.
The ISFAR reviewed a meta-analysis based on data from more than 4m subjects in prospective cohort studies, among whom 11,846 incident cases of pancreatic cancer were diagnosed.
The stated purpose of this new analysis was to determine whether misclassifying former and occasional drinkers as abstainers and other potentially-confounding study characteristics underlie observed positive health outcomes for low volume drinkers in prospective studies of mortality.
Most previous studies have shown that consumers of light-to-moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages tend to have a significant reduction in their subsequent risk of developing Type II diabetes mellitus (DM).
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