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Alcohol Issues Insights

The findings of a recently-published Finnish study support previous research that light/moderate drinking may reduce risks for cognitive impairment. Recall, INSIGHTS reported a Norwegian study in August 2010 that linked light-moderate wine and beer consumption to better cognitive performance after 7 years of follow up. The Finnish study followed patients for over 20 years. It found that both lifelong abstention and heavy consumption significantly increased the risks of cognitive impairment, as did binge drinking and "passing out" experiences. The Norwegian study had found that abstainers "had significantly worse cognitive performance" compared to light drinkers. In the Finnish study, light drinkers (0-3 drinks/week) were the baseline group. Lifelong abstainers had approximately 2X the risk for cognitive impairment after an average of 23 years follow-up compared to light drinkers. Heavy drinkers (>7 drinks/week for women, >14 drinks/week for men) also had double the risk. Moderate drinkers had the lowest risk of later cognitive impairment, about 13% lower than light drinkers, in fact. Those who binged (5+ drinks at least monthly) also had elevated risks, regardless of their overall consumption. Similarly, those who said they'd passed out due to excessive drinking more than twice in a given year, had quadruple the risk for…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2011
  • Volume 28
  • Issue # 1
As we've documented in INSIGHTS over the last few years, the Centers for Disease Control, via its interpretation of research findings and their policy implications, its Community Prevention Guides and other programs, has become the lead federal agency voicing support for public health approaches to alcohol problems. CDC did not play an official role in the CAB ban last month, but a CDC official joined FDA, FTC and TTB at the press conference. And while neither FDA nor TTB took part in AP 15, CDC officials spoke at 3 separate sessions. CDC's approach became clear from presentations by Dr. Robert Brewer, who leads CDC's Alcohol Program, Randy Elder from the Community Guide group and Janet Collins, an associate director. Some of their key points: 1) there is "unequivocal evidence" linking alcohol prices with consumption and harm levels, and higher excise taxes are among the most effective policies to reduce both; 2) CDC's Community Guides also recommend stricter limits on alcohol availability via location, days and/or hours of sale, or at least no increases in availability; 3) CDC officials focused sharply on binge drinking, noting several times that most binge drinkers are "not alcohol dependent" and that most binge drinkers, especially…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2010
  • Volume 27
  • Issue # 12
For those familiar with only the press accounts and/or FDA's November 17 new release effectively banning a number of caffeinated alcohol beverages, the detailed analysis can be found in its letter to Phusion Projects, the makers of Four Loko. Here are FDA's main points and conclusions to support its conclusion that "caffeine is an unsafe food additive" in alcohol beverages. Therefore, the beverages to which caffeine has been "directly added" are "adulterated" and "unsafe." Under federal law, the makers were required to prove the added caffeine met its standard of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) "under its specific conditions of use" via "consensus among qualified experts" and publicly available "data and information." Net-net: FDA found "a number of experts" had concerns about added caffeine's safety, but no data to prove its safety. Specific concerns included: 1) negative "behavioral effects" in young people; 2) potential "life-threatening situations" resulting from consumption since caffeine "counteracts some, but not all of alcohols adverse effects"; 3) because of caffeine's masking effect, "naïve" drinkers may consume higher amounts of alcohol in CABs. FDA cited five studies in all to support those concerns. Beyond the product itself, "context" of use is also important. Indeed, FDA seemed equally…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2010
  • Volume 27
  • Issue # 11
A Wisconsin bartender fined for serving an underage patron who was working as part of a police sting recently lost a Court of Appeals decision in which she argued she was entrapped by police. If the decision had gone in favor of the bartender, it may have created a problem for state law enforcement agencies that employ use of similar "sting" operations to crack down on serving underage drinkers. In this case, a 19 year-old female, working as an agent for the Jefferson County sheriff department in Jan 2009, entered a bar alone. She sat at the bar, was approached by the bartender Jodi Gromowski and ordered an alcoholic beverage. The court noted Gromowski "did not ask for identification or otherwise ask the agent her age," and was subsequently fined $249 for violating a Wisconsin law that states "no person may sell any alcohol beverages to any underage person not accompanied by his or her parent, guardian or spouse who has attained the legal drinking age." The decision was clear-cut in the eyes of the Circuit court which ruled against the bartender and the Appeals court which upheld the decision. But Gromowski argued that the use of a minor led…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2010
  • Volume 27
  • Issue # 9
The same edition of the cardiology journal included a positive overview of the current state of the research from pioneer alcohol/health researcher Dr. Arthur Klatsky from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in California. At this point, Dr. Klatsky believes there is a "compelling" case that "persons at coronary artery risk obtain a benefit from light-moderate drinking" even though "absolute proof…will not appear soon." Dr. Klatsky reminds that links between moderate drinking and better health date back to at least the mid-19th century when "Anstie, a prominent public health activist" proposed a "sensible limit" of "approximately 3 standard sized drinks" daily. (Not many "prominent public health activists" today would agree.) What's more, Dr. Klatsky notes that research linking moderate drinking to better health dates back to 1926, when a Baltimore study found moderate drinkers had lower mortality rates than heavy drinkers and abstainers. Many similar studies in subsequent decades came to the same conclusion. The association goes beyond correlation, Klatsky suggests. "Points favoring a causal protective effect of moderate alcohol drinking include proper time sequence, consistency in diverse healthy or unhealthy populations, plausible biological mechanisms … controlled trial data for surrogate end points and weakness of data supporting alternative explanations."…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2010
  • Volume 27
  • Issue # 4
While annual Monitoring the Future surveys show remarkable long-term declines in drinking prevalence among junior and senior high school students, the same surveys show some slight increases in drinking among young adults age 19-28, at least over the last decade. At the same time, attitudes about moderate and heavy drinking show some modest changes among this segment of the population. Just below 69% of 19-28 year olds drank monthly in 2008, according to MTF. That's up 2 points from 66.9% in 1998, though still 5 points below the 75% of 19-28 yr olds who drank monthly in the late 80s. Daily drinking among this age group increased from 4% to 5.3% over the last decade, though again that's down from 6.1% 20 years ago. Compare these trends to monthly drinking among 18 yr-olds, which dropped from 63.9% in 1988 to 52% in 98 then 43% in 2008. Similarly, daily drinking among 18 yr-olds declined from 4.2% to 3.9% to 2.8%. What about older adults? MTF data on those 30+ doesn't go as far back as the teen data, but monthly drinking among 35 yr-olds increased from 62.9% in 98 to 65% in 08; among 40 yr-olds the rate increased from…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2010
  • Volume 27
  • Issue # 3