Huge alcohol clinical trial collapses – The Press

Goran Kosanovic, Washington Post

A 10-year, US$100 million study into alcohol fell over because it “could show benefits while missing the harms”.

Pounding one alcoholic drink after another is bad for your health. Things get murkier when it comes to “moderate” drinking. What’s the limit? Can a health-conscious person serenely order a second round?

The alcohol industry has long embraced the notion that alcohol in moderation won’t harm you and indeed is good for you.

Many studies have shown that people who drink any kind of alcohol in moderation have lower rates of heart disease than people who abstain or who drink heavily. But the evidence is stubbornly ambiguous.

As reported in the Lancet earlier this year, a survey of the health of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries found that very moderate drinking – about one drink a day – lowers the rate of certain kinds of heart attacks but raises the risk of other cardiovascular problems. There’s no net benefit in life expectancy, the study found.

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Alcohol research is notoriously bedevilled by “confounding effects.” The most obvious is that the non-drinking population includes people who can’t drink because of health problems. Meanwhile, healthy people are free to drink. 

“People who drink moderately are healthier than people who don’t drink. But that doesn’t mean the drinking caused them to be healthier,” says University of Minnesota social epidemiologist Toben Nelson.

This issue was supposed to be clarified by the 10-year, US$100 million Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health trial, which started to enroll participants earlier this year.

It would have looked at 7800 people on multiple continents, all older than 50 and at risk

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