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Government Alcohol Advice Should be Based on Evidence, Not Agendas

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Should adults cut their alcohol consumption in half for health reasons? That’s what a federal government advisory committee is recommending.

It matters because that recommendation is likely to get baked into the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, due for a five-year update this year, and disseminated to health agencies and medical professionals nationwide. It’s the kind of advice that should be based on evidence — that there’s some great health benefit to cutting back. But in this case, there’s no evidence, only politics and the personal biases of advisory committee members.

For at least four decades, the scientific literature on alcohol consumption has consistently shown a strong link between moderate intake and better health outcomes compared to those who totally abstain from alcohol or binge drink. Thus, since the 1990s, the recommendation has been to limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men.

Out of the blue, the current advisory committee recommended the upper limit be set at no more than one drink per day for both sexes. Such a change implies that the research literature has dramatically shifted our understanding of the risks and benefits of moderate alcohol. That is not the case.

Instead, the advisory committee focused only on studies published after 2010. Of the 60 studies that made the cut, approximately half found that low alcohol intake was associated with reduced risk of early mortality compared with never drinking. The other half found no relationship. Only one study included in its review examined potential differences in risk for men drinking one or two drinks per day.

Even though the committee’s report concluded that limited evidence suggests “low average alcohol consumption, particularly without binge drinking, is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with never drinking alcohol,” it still recommends reducing the upper limit on alcohol intake.

A single study is not a sound scientific basis on which to set national guidelines. And there is a mountain of evidence, developed over several decades, indicating that light to moderate alcohol intake has significant health benefits. Why would the advisory committee focus on one study and ignore the rest? Could it be because this one study, unlike all the others, supported a preferred political agenda?

Politics has always been a factor in the dietary guidelines, with various interests vying for recommendations that favor their industry or point of view. In the case of alcohol, however, the committee’s recommendations seem to have been influenced by a political agenda set by a contingent of activists set on convincing the world that, despite what decades of evidence say, there is no safe level of alcohol intake.

Read the full article at Washington Examiner.