Another bogus alcohol scare story

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Paul Matthews, Apr 13, 2018.

  1. The BBC and other sources this morning are claiming that a new study shows that even moderate drinking shortens your life. The BBC's headline on this was originally

    Just one alcoholic drink a day could shorten your life, study says

    as you can see if you search google news for alcohol. But if you click the link you can see that in response to much criticism they have now changed the headline to the less scary "Regular excess drinking can take years off your life, study finds".

    The claim made is (from the Telegraph) that
    "the new study suggests the upper safe limit of drinking was about five drinks per week, the equivalent of 12.5 units or just over five pints of four per cent beer, or five 175ml glasses of 13 per cent wine."
    That is, 100g of alcohol, as reported in the paper in the Lancet. But the data shown in the graph in the paper shows that significant harm only comes in at about 200g. I will try to upload the graph.

    If you're interested and on twitter, see comments by Adam Jacobs, @statsguyuk
  2. alc1.png

    Fig 1 from the paper in the Lancet
  3. The Adam Jacobs criticisms are excellent, but apply to media spin (including the Lancet's) and to mild drinkers. Despite consistent observational evidence, it may be that even mild drinking is bad for you.

    I was more interested in the suggestion the paper's evidence makes that most of the harm of alcohol is mediated by it causing high blood pressure, hence the strokes and other mischief. That is also consistent with other studies. One could therefore modify one's risk through reduced consumption or controlling blood pressure, or both.
  4. alc2.png
    Hidden away in the appendix is this graph, which seems to show that moderate drinking is good for you and that non-drinking is as dangerous as drinking 300g/week. This didn't make it into the news stories.
  5. In the Guardian it was reported that drinking alcohol is as bad for the health as smoking, which I did find surprising. Perhaps we should all take up smoking on the grounds that one might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.
    Alex Jagger and Mark Carrington like this.
  6. man, this kind of thing makes me really stressed. I need a drink...
  7. As Dave Allen famously remarked:
    "Doctor, if I give up drinking will I live longer?"
    "No. But it will certainly seem like it !"
  8. The reason it's hidden away has been explained in the first page:

    ....a focus on current drinkers should limit potential biases that are difficult to control in observational studies (eg, reverse causality, residual confounding, and unmeasured effect modification) because ex-drinkers include people who might have abstained from alcohol owing to poor health itself, as well as those who have changed their habits to achieve a healthier lifestyle. Third, never-drinkers might differ systematically from drinkers in ways that are difficult to measure, but which might be relevant to disease causation.
  9. Long Live Puritanism. :mad:
  10. Surely drinkers may also differ from each other in ways it is difficult to measure. This is way I take all these stats with a pinch of salt, no sorry that's bad for you too :)
    Paul Matthews likes this.
  11. How fortunate is my good friend who neither drinks, smokes, eats fat, enjoys sunshine or indeed any other pleasure and therefore will live forever.
    simon beatty and Uillaim Tait like this.
  12. Erm, not really, for both cases.
    But I get you, like most of other posts, are making it jolly rather than being anti-scientific or slippery slope.

    Don't get me wrong, I know which forum I am at. And also don't get me wrong, I think media's exaggrating-eyes-catching title can be almost as anti-scientific as science-denial title. Just I think we need to be more open-minded on the possibility that alcohol may really not be that great for human beings' health even for small quantity. 599,912 is a good number of sample quantity and even the so-called 'God damned lie' statistics, there are good quality ones and bad ones.

    I still choose to drink from time to time, I am sure you all will. But we should know what the most possibly true facts are. If you don't trust media, read the full research article. If you don't trust their statistics, there are books about bio/medical statistics principles.
    Thom Blach likes this.
  13. It may depend on quality... drinking 400 g of Roumier or Rousseau only may get you down to 0.8 (?)... but South African Chardonnay is no good at all;)...
    Chiu Lin and Mark Gough like this.
  14. It would be more interesting to apply genetic markers to each subject wouldn't it, then to see what correlation there is across similar genetic types who drink / don't drink. And all units are not equal. A pint of beer has liquid volume and a shed load of sugar, which in themselves can increase risk.
  15. And that perhaps is the most salient point. I think that on balance, most of us would trade a couple of years of life for the pleasures of wine.
  16. There’s good science here, whether we like it or not. Badly reported, for sure, as ever. But it seems perfectly respectable scientifically to ask the question of whether increasing alcohol consumption is associated with increasing risk of adverse events. There is a true answer to that question, and one that I think we would all be interested in the answer to, one way or another.

    The quality of the work here is very high. These things are always open to challenge and criticism (that’s science!), but it’s important to recognise that although the media give all these stories equal prominence this study is in a different class to the usual sort of thing where 5 rats were fed a diet of KFC concentrate, vodka and benson and hedges and some of their cells looked different under a microscope. The paper is free to view on the Lancet site - well worth a look.
    Kinley Smith likes this.
  17. Why is it that everything (well almost everything) that I enjoy seems to be bad for my health ?
  18. So is oxygen! :)
    Alex Jagger likes this.
  19. Headline for today - "People die. Some before others"
    simon beatty likes this.
  20. I have always thought it wishful thinking to imagine that the regular consumption of alcoholic drinks is not in some way deleterious to good health. On the other hand I really couldn't care less.
  21. From the point of view of wine drinkers, here's an even more fascinating one hidden away in the appendices - look at the central graphic (b).

  22. Well spotted !
  23. Actually all 3 graphs are excellent news for the like of us...
  24. Indeed Antoine, but I think we either knew or suspected (a) and (c) to be the case. It's the first time I've seen (b).
    Antoine Singer likes this.

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