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Alcohol Is Good For You? The Public Is Not Convinced

Alcohol Is Good For You? The Public Is Not Convinced


Source: Science 2.0

June 21st 2015


Decades ago, the American Council on Science and Health said that saturated fats were not as bad as was being portrayed and replacements would be worse. National Resources Defense Council and other scare-story-of-the-month groups had sided with yet another ban on food to get mainstream media attention and said anyone who disagreed must be a shill for Big Bacon. They wanted everything replaced with trans fats.


Now, science has been proven correct again and anti-science groups look foolish. The FDA has found partially hydrogenated oils have no value and some risk, so they are going to be banned unless companies receive an exemption.


Small wonder that the public does what the NRDC does and accepts or denies science based on their personal or political beliefs. And alcohol is a great example. Despite numerous mainstream media articles claiming alcohol is good for hearts, the public is waiting it out to see if articles show up saying alcohol is bad again. People who like to drink are drinking more, claiming it is healthy, finds an analysis of the Health eHeart Study.


Alcohol is the most commonly consumed U.S drug, according to the study researchers. While the harms of alcohol abuse related to physical and mental health have been established, there is debate regarding the cardiovascular health effects of moderate consumption. The researchers note that while few, if any, rigorous controlled trials have been conducted to determine alcohol’s potential heart benefits, the media frequently portray alcohol as “heart healthy.”


To determine people’s perceptions of the cardiovascular benefits of alcohol, the source of those perceptions and how perceptions may influence behavior, senior author Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, director of clinical research in the UCSF Division of Cardiology, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data collected from participants enrolled in the Health eHeart Study between March 8, 2013, and Sept. 29, 2014.


The Health eHeart Study gathers cardiovascular data from study participants through devices such as smartphone apps, ECG smartphone cases and portable blood pressure cuffs. The Health eHeart already has more than 20,000 people enrolled from around the world. Of the 5,582 Health eHeart Study participants who responded to questions on alcohol at the time of this analysis, 1,707 (30 percent) viewed alcohol as heart healthy, 2,157 (39 percent) viewed alcohol as unhealthy, and 1,718 (31 percent) were unsure. Of those reporting alcohol as heart healthy, 80 percent cited the lay press as a source of their knowledge.


Further, those respondents who perceived alcohol as heart healthy were older, more often women, had higher levels of education and income, and more often resided in the United States. Compared to the rest of the cohort, they consumed, on average, 47 percent more alcohol. A vast majority of them also believe that red wine exclusively is beneficial.


Who were most skeptical that alcohol was healthy, even in moderation? Smokers and those with heart failure.


“It is particularly interesting to note that those who believe alcohol to be heart healthy actually drink more alcohol,” Marcus said. “Whether their belief causes this behavior, or merely justifies it, remains an interesting unknown. Future studies that perhaps assign different types of medical advice regarding alcohol may be very worthwhile and relevant to the great majority of our population – more than 80 percent of whom drink alcohol.”


Published in the American Journal of Cardiology.