Friday, April 20, 2018

Eye on Health: Alcohol Companies Are Funding Research To Convince You 'Moderate' Drinking Is Healthy


Research on the concept of “moderation” reveals that the more a person likes a food or drink, the bigger their definition of what a “moderate” serving is.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: The Huffington Post
By Anna Almendrala | April 14, 20128

We don’t trust nutrition studies funded by soda companies. Why would we trust alcohol studies funded by the booze industry?

Officials at the government agency tasked with studying the health effects of alcohol aggressively courted alcohol executives to fund a $100 million clinical trial on “moderate drinking,” according to recently published investigations by The New York Times, Wired and Stat.

The executives complied, according to the Times, with the understanding that this research would probably conclude alcohol is safe and lowers the risk of disease.

Together, these reports paint a disturbing picture about the way alcohol companies are trying to influence scientific understanding, and thus public perception, of alcohol as a health tonic.

If you’ve ever seen headlines about how red wine is good for your heart, or how moderate alcohol use is linked to longer life, you’ve seen the alcohol industry’s influence on health science at work. And Americans seem to be swallowing that message. A 2015 Gallup poll found that 1 in 5 Americans believe “moderate” drinking is good for health, and that this was especially true among those who drink alcohol.

This belief is a boon for the alcohol industry for at least two reasons: It links alcohol consumption to a healthy lifestyle that can improve heart health, and it relies on the concept of “moderation,” a squishy term that in practice ends up meaning whatever drinkers want it to mean.

Alcohol executives were allowed to help pick the scientists and preview the trial’s design, reports the Times, while Wired reported on how dependent the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is on industry funding to complete the expensive, long-term study. Finally, Stat has a story about how scientists who published unflattering research about the alcohol industry were verbally abused by NIAAA officials and cut off from funding.

It’s kind of the whole reason we have an independent science sector ― to wall it off from conflicts of interest like this.
David Jernigan, Boston University School of Public Health.

Even though the scientists involved in these studies, all from prestigious universities, may insist that they have independence in their work, studies show that research funded by the food industry is four to eight times more likely to conclude something that financially benefits the sponsor. Industry-funded research also tends to suppress negative data. When pharmaceutical companies fund studies, the findings are less likely to be published than research funded by other sources.

“The obvious conflict of interest is that the funder of this research stands to benefit when the research comes out with findings that encourage more people to use its products,” said David Jernigan, a professor at the Department of Health Law, Policy and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health. “It’s kind of the whole reason we have an independent science sector ― to wall it off from conflicts of interest like this.”

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