Sunday, 15 January 2012

More hypocrisy from the Government.

After I wrote the previous article I did a little searching around on the internet and found the House of Common's report by which the new Government guidelines are based which can be found here. I just thought I'd post a selection of snippets from the evidence section to highlight my earlier point.

"There is a lack of consensus amongst experts over the health benefits of alcohol, but it is not clear from the current evidence base how the benefits of drinking alcohol at low quantities compare to those of lifelong abstention."
In other words, there is no evidence either way.

"We have heard sufficient concerns from experts to suggest that a thorough review of the evidence on alcohol and health risks is due."

So essentially since they have no evidence they are calling for a review.

One of the most interesting things I could find was this little graph which I think they have gotten from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, a part of the University of Boston's School of Medicine, and Alcohol in moderation who state on their website (found here)

"The Forum consists of an international group of invited physicians and scientists who are specialists in their fields and committed to balanced and well researched analysis regarding alcohol and health. The Forum includes epidemiologists, statisticians, and basic scientists; cardiologists, hepatologists, neurologists, oncologists, and other medical practitioners; psychologists and social scientists; and specialists in social matters, psychology, and public health."
Sound like a fairly credible organisation to me. Much more credible than a Government funded lobby group like alcohol concern.
Now, to the graph itself. It doesn't really need a huge amount of explanation; the graph quite clearly shows that from their data the relative risk of mortality is minimum for both men and women when around 0.5 drinks a day is the average consumption. It is also necessary to point out that the relative risk only meets that of abstention, even taking the lowest confidence interval, for men around 3.75 drinks a day and for women at around 2 drinks per day. Now if we say the average drink has around 2 units in that would mean that if a man was to drink 7.5, or a woman 4, units a day their relative risk of mortality would still only equal that of the case of abstention. So where oh where have the Government plucked these 2-3 for women and 3-4 for men from? It truely does baffle me that this is clearly stated in the same Government report they use to campaign for reducing the guidelines.

Would "dry days" make a difference? A comment on Government policy and bad science journalism in general.

Mark Dredge recently wrote an interesting article about the new government recommendation for drinkers to have a least a couple of "dry days" within a week which can be found here. He makes the good point that we occasionally feel like we can "reward" ourselves after these dry days. As a younger drinker, with a reasonably hectic university life, I know all too well the feeling of "saving up" a weeks worth of drinking to have a few too many at the weekend. To me this notion of a dry day from the government just goes further to highlight the lack of understanding of the affect of alcohol. As far as I could tell from the original article here this new advice has come on the back of very little scientific studies or evidence; the article claims that "recent studies have cast doubt on the health benefits of regular drinking". However, as with all good science articles the names of, the sources of funding for and any information about these studies is nowhere to be seen. As a science student I am intrinsically unsure of any article which fails to disclose where the information has come from. It wouldn't surprise me if the funding for this study came from one of the well known impartial bodies like Alcohol Concern. While I do agree that there is a problem in this country of alcohol abuse, especially amongst people my own age, I think to attack the sensible drinkers with policies like this is not only pointless but also downright irresponsible. I am almost certain a large amount of young drinkers read these headlines and thought "Great if I have 4 dry days during the week it means I can drink as much as I want at the weekend because the government said it was ok!"

The article also raises the older issue of the actual safe amount of alcohol the body can deal with in a set amount of time. According to current Government legislation my mum having a glass of wine with her evening meal would render her a binge drinker. A good comparison to the current non-guidelines is that of speed limits; in my opinion they are both too low and importantly everyone knows it. Most drivers would have no real qualms about hitting 75mph on a motorway and similarly most drinkers have no problems drinking more than 21 units a week. Many people will have drank over 21 units a week and seen no ill affects from it so clearly the current guidelines are simply too low to be believed. The other big problem with the current guidelines is the fact that they are very confusing to the average person on the street. The notion of units need to be scrapped ASAP if the Government ever want people to understand  the guidelines. Call me Dave seems to have realised this with calls for the simplification of the system and for more education for young people about the amount of alcohol in certain drinks. If the Government want their guidelines to be taken seriously, they need to present the public with the actual evidence and set guidelines which are both understandable to the average person and also don't appear patronising.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Low alcohol beers; it's not all about getting pissed you know!

Having recently raved about a couple of excellent low alcohol beers I'd had recently, and with everyone's favourite government announcing more drinking advice, I took the time to find a selection of the new low alcohol delights that should be available this year.


The first of these is Wadworth's small beer which is described as "using six different malts along with three hops added at various phases of the brew". They also say that the duty saving WILL be passed onto the consumer meaning the price should only be around £2.50 a pint. So far so good I think.

The second is Fuller Mighty Atom which is supposedly a "2.8% beer that doesn't compromise on flavour." Fullers also say that the tax saving will be passed onto the customer.
Finally it's the turn of one of my least favourite breweries. In the past I have often accused Greene King of churning out some truly mediocre beers. However, at last they have tried something new. As with the other 2 they say the beer should retail for well under £3 a pint.

Low strength beers are a great idea and something which I think could revitalise one of the major areas of concern for pubs; the decline in lunchtime drinking. I wholeheartedly urge any brewers out there to give the style a bash.