Tag: alcohol

Nearly 9% of Alcohol Consumed by Underage Drinkers

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Underage youth consumed $17.5 billion worth, or 8.6 percent, of the alcoholic drinks sold in 2016 in the US. Nearly half of youth consumption was made up of products from three alcohol companies: AB Inbev, MillerCoors and Diageo. The study findings were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

In a landmark study of youth alcohol consumption by brand, the authors collected large amounts of data to estimate, for the first time in two decades, the monetary value of youth alcohol consumption. And for the first time, they were able to attribute those revenues to specific companies.

“The alcohol industry has said they don’t want minors to drink, but when we counted up the drinks, it was clear that they were making billions of dollars from these sales,” said co-lead author Pamela J. Trangenstein, PhD, assistant professor of health behaviour at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “There is a clear disconnect when an industry advocates prevention but then makes billions of dollars from prevention’s failure.”

Alcohol is the number one substance used among people ages 12 to 20. Although underage drinking has fallen in recent years, alcohol is still responsible for approximately 3500 deaths annually for under 21s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the US, the minimum drinking age is 21, although before 1984 states set their own drinking age. According to the CDC, raising the drinking age to 21 saw a 16% reduction in motor vehicle accident deaths, and there is evidence that this limit protects drinkers from alcohol and other drug dependence, adverse birth outcomes, and suicide and homicide.

“Our prior studies have repeatedly shown that youth are exposed to and influenced by alcohol marketing,” commented co-author David H Jernigan, PhD, professor at Boston University. “If alcohol companies are truly committed to preventing youth drinking, they should be willing to put these revenues into an independent agency able to address underage drinking without a conflict of interest.”

The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, the science advisory body for the US Congress, made that recommendation in their 2003 report on underage drinking. In 2006, the legislation was passed entirely devoted to curbing underage drinking. While that legislation authorised $18 million in spending, the full amount has never been used. 

“Community coalitions in North Carolina and across the country are constantly begging for dollars to support their work on underage drinking,” said Prof Trangenstein. “Our study identifies a clear source for that badly needed funding. Families and communities are paying the price, while big alcohol companies are reaping all the benefits.”

Source: Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

More information: Eck, R. H., Trangenstein, P. J., Siegel, M., & Jernigan, D. H. (2021). Company-specific revenues from underage drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 82, 368–376. DOI: 10.15288/jsad.2021.82.368

Only Total Alcohol Bans Relieve Pressure on SA Hospitals

A new study found that alcohol bans could be a sensible policy to help South Africa through new health crises, according to a study published on Monday.

Based on local hospital admission data, the authors said that their work demonstrates that “alcohol prohibition correlates with a decrease in health seeking behaviour for injury”.

Several organisations in the liquor industry have started pre-emptive lobbying in the face of possible new alcohol bans as COVID infections are rising in a third wave. At the same time, The Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance is pressuring the government to institute tougher alcohol controls to pre-empt the new wave of infections. 

The study was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

The authors, all associated with Stellenbosch University or the South African Medical Research Council, which helped fund their work, compared data from Worcester Regional Hospital for 2020 with the same from 2019, across trauma admissions, trauma operations, and stab wound admissions, “as a proxy for intentional injury”.

A pattern of decreased hospital use was observed in 2020 when there were bans and partial bans, and a resurgence following even the partial lifting of bans.

“Each time a complete ban was instituted, there was a significant drop in trauma volume which was lost by allowing alcohol (even partial sales),” the researchers wrote.

Specifically, there was a 59–69% decrease in trauma volume between pre-Covid-19 and the first complete ban period. When alcohol sales were partially rein-stated, trauma volume significantly increased by 83–90% then dropped again by 39–46% with the second alcohol ban.”

The study “demonstrates a clear trend of decreased trauma admissions and operations during complete alcohol prohibition compared to when alcohol sales were allowed or only partially restricted,” the authors wrote.

They concluded that an alcohol ban is an effective way to reduce strain on healthcare infrastructure.

“These findings suggest that temporary, complete bans on alcohol sales can be used to decrease health facility traffic during national emergencies.”

The authors considered the possibility other measures such as the curfew could have affected the result, but argued that it was unlikely.

Source: Business Insider

Keto Diet Eases Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Study Finds

A team of researchers in the US and Denmark has found that if people suffering from alcohol withdrawal go on a ketogenic (keto) diet  the severity of their symptoms will be reduced.

Alcoholics who stop drinking experience withdrawal symptoms of varying severity.  Since the alcohol withdrawal symptoms are so unpleasant, many people seek assistance, such as checking into rehab. In this new effort, the researchers have found a new tool to help with withdrawal symptoms and which could possibly reduce the rate of recidivism.

The research was motivated by two observations. The first being that prior studies have shown that in long term alcohol dependency, people’s bodies begin to use alcohol-metabolised acetate for energy, and less glucose. The lack of acetate is associated with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The second is that on a keto diet, the body has more ketone bodies to metabolise for use as an energy source. Taken together, it suggested that people on keto diets could substitute the acetate as an energy source and minimise withdrawal symptoms. 

A ketogenic diet is high-fat, moderate-protein and very-low-carbohydrate. The ratio of these macronutrients are approximately 55% to 60% fat, 30% to 35% protein and 5% to 10% carbohydrates. In a 2000 kcal per day diet, carbohydrates amount up to 20 to 50 g per day.

To test the theory, the study recruited 46 participants newly hospitalised alcoholics, half went on the keto diet and the other half went in a control group. The researchers measured ketone and acetate levels in the volunteers once a week, and also looked for inflammation markers that are common in people in rehab and assessed the amount of medication the participants needed to ease their symptoms. 
Taken together, the data suggested that the keto diet reduced withdrawal symptoms in the volunteers. When the researchers conducted a similar experiment with test rats, they observed that the rats on the diet drank less alcohol than control rats. 

The researchers said that their results are encouraging, but note that additional research is necessary, particularly with outpatient volunteers.

Source: Medical Xpress

Journal information: Corinde E. Wiers et al. Ketogenic diet reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms in humans and alcohol intake in rodents, Science Advances (2021). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf6780

Liquor Industry Questions Alcohol Ban Effectiveness

Representatives from the liquor industry have said that the South African government must consider data from a new report that shows little alcohol ban effectiveness on trauma cases. However, other studies show negative effects of alcohol during lockdown, and a surge in violent trauma in Cape Town after alcohol bans were lifted.

In a statement on Thursday, the South African Liquor Brand owners Association (Salba) referenced a new report showing that, compared to other countries, South Africa saw similar trauma cases with its lockdown and alcohol ban to those that only had a lockdown.

The report had financial support from Distell, led by independent data expert Ian McGorian of Silver Fox Consulting, in collaboration with professor Mike Murray from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The report found that trauma cases in South Africa under lockdown dropped 60%. But other countries also saw the same drop with no alcohol ban, including the UK (57%), Ireland (62%), Italy (56.6%) and the USA (54%), casting doubt over the effectiveness of alcohol bans in curbing trauma. The researchers also commented that curfews may have explained more of a reduction in trauma cases than alcohol bans.

While members of the liquor industry recognised the impact of alcohol on South African society, they said that government needs to be more objective with its lockdown regulations.

Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the alcohol ban over Easter Weekend, while simultaneously allowing larger gatherings, made even less sense in reducing COVID transmission. This suggests that government was not considering science in its decision making, he said.

However, a multicentre study from Colorado, USA showed that even while trauma cases during lockdown fell by 33%, alcohol screens increased from 34% to 37%, and alcohol positive patients rose from 32% to 39%.

A study of Cape Town trauma admissions saw a dramatic drop of 53% in trauma admissions during the hard lockdown and an immediate rebound coinciding with the resumption of alcohol sales, with a 107% increase in gunshots wounds compared to pre-lockdown conditions.

The researchers noted that in South Africa the trauma demographic is much younger, with much higher rates of violence, with about half of homicide victims in SA testing positive for alcohol.

Distell chief executive Richard Rushton said the industry was merely asking that the data should be viewed objectively to improve dialogue with decision makers.

“We are all on the same side, and we want to help find solutions. We are very clear that alcohol abuse is unacceptable and causes harm. Our view is that the focus must be on finding ways to deal with high-risk drinkers, rather than using blunt instruments that penalise all South Africans.

“Any proposed new regulations need to be evidence-based, rational and target problem areas,” he said.

Business Leadership SA chief executive Busisiwe Mavuso said that lockdown could have been better managed, as 220 000 jobs had been lost along billions of rands in tax to the fiscus, while uncertainty still plagued alcohol producers.

“The decisions made to confront the health crisis should not have unintended consequences for the economy, and that is exactly what has happened with the bans on alcohol,” she said.

Mr Mavuso added that, since the start of the pandemic, business has been a willing partner to government and “needs to be part of the solution to ensure we fight this pandemic with the least possible damage to the economy”.

“The data analysis by the alcohol industry is an important intervention and must be taken seriously as we move forward.”

Source: BusinessTech

An Eye for Wine: Alcohol May Prevent Cataracts

Two people clinking wine glasses together. Photo by Jep Gambardella from Pexels

A study from the UK has shown that people who drink up to 14 units of alcohol a week have a reduced risk of developing cataracts, with red wine having an even more pronounced effect.

Drinking less than 14 units of alcohol (or about six pints of beer, or six glasses of wine) is in line with the British Chief Medical Officer’s low risk drinking guidelines.

Cataracts are a major cause of impaired eyesight and blindness, mainly in older people. Cataract removal is simple, and is the most common surgery carried out by the UK’s National Health Service. The NHS considers drinking to be a risk factor for cataracts.

Researchers from Moorfields eye hospital in London and University College London’s institute of ophthalmology studied the medical and lifestyle history of nearly half a million participants in either the UK Biobank or Epic-Norfolk longitudinal health studies.

The results showed that people who drank within the 14 units a week guideline were less likely to have cataract surgery. Wine drinkers were even less likely to have it, compared to those who consumed beer or spirits. In the Epic-Norfolk study, drinking wine at least five times a week meant a 23% reduced chance of cataract removal than non-drinkers, while those in the UK Biobank study were 14% less likely.

“Cataract development may be due to gradual damage from oxidative stress during ageing. The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are especially abundant in red wine,” said first author Dr Sharon Chua.

Research leader Dr Anthony Khawaja added: “We observed a dose-response with our findings – in other words, there was evidence for reducing chance of requiring future cataract surgery with progressively higher alcohol intake, but only up to moderate levels within current guidelines.”

The authors emphasised that there was still not a causal link between alcohol consumption and reduced cataract surgeries despite the association.

Dr Sadie Boniface, research head at the Institute of Alcohol Studies thinktank, cast doubt on the findings. She said that longitudinal studies such as UK Biobank may not accurately represent health across the nation because many volunteers were often in good health.

“Comparing the health of moderate drinkers with that of non-drinkers also carries problems. Non-drinkers are a diverse group, including people who have stopped drinking because of health problems. This means moderate drinking can artificially look like it carries health benefits, because the moderate drinkers are compared to people on average in poor health,” said Dr Boniface.

“The bigger effect seen among wine drinkers may be because of other characteristics of this group to do with their cataract risk which weren’t accounted for. If the amount of alcohol or number of units somebody drinks was having a direct effect, you’d expect this to be similar regardless of drink type.”

Source: The Guardian

Alcoholic Liver Disease Is ‘Astronomical’ in Young Women

Image by ds_30 from Pixabay

Rates of alcoholic liver disease are skyrocketing in young women, doctors in the US have warned. Much of it has to do with added pressures on women in the pandemic.

Alcoholic liver disease — including milder fatty liver and the permanent scarring of cirrhosis, as well as alcoholic hepatitis — are up 30% over the last year at the University of Michigan’s health system, said Dr Jessica Mellinger, a liver specialist there. Severe liver disease and cirrhosis can see survival rates as low as 10%.

The route by which liver disease develops varies according to the individual, although obesity, genetics and underlying health conditions play a role. Moderate consumption of alcohol, a glass or two of wine daily, is unlikely to contribute to it.

However, Dr Mellinger says that along with her colleagues, she has seen alcohol consumption edging upward, to a bottle of wine per day which results in increased risk of serious liver disease.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, no data on overall increases in serious alcoholic liver disease has yet been compiled by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, Dr Mellinger said, “in my conversations with my colleagues at other institutions, everybody is saying the same thing: ‘Yep, it’s astronomical. It’s just gone off the charts.’ “

The age demographic is also changing. “We’re seeing kids in their late 20s and early 30s with a disease that we previously thought was kind of exclusive to middle age,” she said.

The pressures of the COVID pandemic are partly to blame, and in many cases the extra burden is falling on women – who are already more susceptible to alcohol because they have a smaller water volume to distribute alcohol into and their bodies do less ‘first pass’ metabolism of alcohol in the stomach. Popular culture and advertising also encourages women to drink.

Psychological factors such as eating disorders and trauma from sexual abuse also fuel the disease.

“Whether this is early life sexual trauma or they are in a recent or ongoing abusive relationship, we see this link very, very closely,” said psychiatrist Dr Scott Winder, a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan who treats liver disease patients. “Just the sheer amount of trauma is really, really tragic.”

The lack of overlap between the various fields in this complex relationship results in what he calls a “tragic gap”.

“The cultures of hepatology and the cultures of psychology and psychiatry are very disparate; we see patients very differently,” so physicians aren’t coordinating care, even when they should, he said.

Advanced liver disease may leave no other recourse than a liver transplant.
“Unfortunately, transplantation is finite,” said Dr Haripriya Maddur, a hepatologist at Northwestern University. “There aren’t enough organs to go around. What it unfortunately means is that many of these young people may not survive, and die very young — in their 20s and 30s. It’s horrific.”

Some people such as Jessica Duena, a teacher who was diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis at 34, and was hospitalised several times following the death of her boyfriend from heroin, have managed to turn the disease around and are encouraging others to do the same. 

She wrote about her long-held secret in the Louisville Courier-Journal: “I’m Jessica, I’m the 2019 Kentucky State Teacher of the Year, I’m an alcoholic and I’ve been suffering in silence for years.”

She received hundreds of responses, mostly women like herself who were in similar circumstances.

“What I’ve noticed is quite a few of the women, typically, they were either educators, they were moms or they happened to be nurses or attorneys,” Duenas said. They poured their hearts out about the crushing and constant stress of kids, work and home life.

They also complained of the pressures outside the home. “Imagine being a teacher who gets evaluated on how your students do, given the situation today,” Duenas says. “I mean, that makes me want to drink for them, you know — like that’s a terrible pressure to be under.”

Duenas has started writing about the stories of such people who reach out to her on her website, www.bottomlesstosober.com.

Source: NPR

Recreational Substances Including Cannabis Linked to Heart Disease

Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are among recreational drugs that contribute to early-onset atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) in young people, a study has found.

The study drew on data of more than a million people receiving primary care services throughout the VA Healthcare System in 2014 or 2015, of whom there were 135 703 with premature ASCVD.

A number of independent predictors for first-event ASCVD for men (from age 55) and women (from 65) were picked up. Tobacco (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.97) and alcohol use (OR 1.50)  conferred significant additional risk, but the greatest risk increase of generally legal substances was cannabis use (OR 2.65). Cocaine use (OR 2.44), amphetamine use (OR 2.74) and other drug use (OR 2.53) all had very high risk increases.

Those using four or more substances had the greatest risk at nearly nine times normal. Women also had much stronger effect sizes for premature ASCVD than men.

In an accompanying editorial Anthony Wayne Orr, PhD, and colleagues at LSU Health Shreveport, wrote: “Substance use disorders have been associated with an acceleration of the ageing process. We are only young once, and we should do everything in our power to maintain that state as long as we can.”

The editorialists suggested a nationwide ASCVD education campaign targeting people with substance use disorders.

“In addition, clinicians and primary care providers should begin screening their adult and young adult patients with a history of a substance use disorder for symptoms of premature or extremely premature ASCVDs at earlier stages in their patients’ lives,” suggested the editorialists.

Limitations included it being an observational study, lack of socioeconomic data and the cohort being mostly white males, as well as not being able to discern between prescription and recreational amphetamine use.
“Retrospective studies are limited by the available data. While this study supports the association between substance use disorder and early-onset ASCVD, the effect of substance use frequency, dose, and duration cannot be reliably ascertained in this patient sample,” the editorialists stated.

The editorialists recommended that specific biomarkers for substance use-associated cardiovascular disease be identified, and therapeutic window characterised to limit these chronic effects of substance use disorder.

Source: MedPage Today

Journal information: Mahtta D, et al “Recreational substance use among patients with premature atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease” Heart 2021; DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2020-318119.

Editorial information: Scott ML, et al “Young at heart? Drugs of abuse cause early-onset cardiovascular disease in the young” Heart 2021; DOI: 10.1136/heartjnl-2020-318856.

Moderate Alcohol Has an Immediate Effect on the Heart

One or two drinks a day may make for a healthy heart, but people with atrial fibrillation (AFib) may experience immediate impacts, as a new study reveals.

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers found that alcohol immediately changed the electrical properties driving heart muscle contraction in patients undergoing a treatment for AFib. These subjects were randomised to receive an infusion of alcohol maintained at the lower limit of legal intoxication, An equal number of control subjects who instead received a placebo infusion did not have this occur. The work was published January 27, 2021 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Clinical Electrophysiology,

Senior study author Gregory Marcus, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UCSF explained: “The acute impact of exposure to alcohol is a reduction in the time needed for certain heart muscle cells in the left atrium to recover after being electrically activated and to be ready to activated again, particularly in the pulmonary veins that empty into the left atrium.”    

AFib is the most common cardiac rhythm disorder, affecting some 1% of the world’s population, and is characterised by tachyarrhythmia. It is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the atria of the heart, making them fibrillate. This causes the atria to pump blood inefficiently, leading to feelings of the heart pounding, fluttering or skipping a beat. Due to turbulence caused by the irregular rhythm, a clot could form which could lead to a stroke. This results in some 158 000 deaths in the US annually. Other negative impacts include fatigue, weakness, dizzy lightheadedness, difficulty breathing and chest pain.

The study patients were undergoing a catheter ablation procedure. This is commonly used to suppress AFib by severing the electrical connection between the pulmonary veins and the left atrium. This areas was also the area noted to be affected by alcohol in the study.

Preparation for the ablation therapy required installation of catheters and electrodes in the heart chambers to monitor and pace the heart, and destroy selected tissue. The study measured refractory time before cells could again transmit electrical signals, and conduction speeds, as well as a stimulus inducing more AFib events. Electrical conduction speed and induced AFib events did not vary, but a 12 millisecond delay was seen in tissue around the pulmonary vein in the alcohol infusion group.

“Although epidemiological studies have found an association between self-reported alcohol consumption and the development of an atrial fibrillation diagnosis, ours is the first study to point to a mechanism through which a lifestyle factor can acutely change the electrical properties of the heart to increase the chance of an arrhythmia,” Marcus said. The same changes caused by alcohol infusion in the study have earlier been associated with episodes of AFib in previous computer models and animal studies, he said.
“Patients should be aware that alcohol can have immediate effects that are expected to increase risk for arrhythmias,” Marcus concluded.

However, in a separate study, injecting ethanol into the vein of Marshall when performing a catheter ablation seemed to increase the odds of treatment success compared to catheter ablation alone.

Source: MedicalXpress

Il-10 Found to be Involved in Alcoholism

Researchers have discovered that the anti-inflammatory IL-10 plays a direct role in alcoholism. Neurological research into addiction and alcohol has focused on the amygdala, which plays a key role in drives, emotions and behaviours.

Alcoholism is a growing problem in need of effective treatment. Interleukin 10 (IL-10) is an immune protein that has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is known to protect the brain from inflammation resulting from disease or injury.

In the brains of mice which chronically used alcohol, the amount of IL-10 was lowered in the amygdala and did not correctly signal neurons, and so was partly responsible for alcohol consumption behaviours. This was despite the overall higher level of IL-10 throughout the brains of chronic alcohol using mice.

“We found that chronic alcohol exposure compromises brain immune cells, which are important for maintaining healthy neurons,” said first author of the study Reesha Patel, PhD. “The resulting damage fuels anxiety and alcohol drinking that may lead to alcohol use disorder.”

The researchers counteracted the decrease of IL-10 amounts and signalling in mice, and the mice’s excessive alcohol use declined, and a decrease in anxiety was also noted.

Marisa Roberto, PhD, a professor in Scripps Research’s Department of Molecular Medicine, led the research. She said, “We’ve shown that inflammatory immune responses in the brain are very much at play in the development and maintenance of alcohol use disorder. But perhaps more importantly, we provided a new framework for therapeutic intervention, pointing to anti-inflammatory mechanisms.”

Source: Medical Xpress