Critique 158: Comments on Alcohol Recommendations included in the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee – 4 March 2015
Note: The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Committee) submitted the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (Advisory Report) to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February 2015. The purpose of the Advisory Report is to inform the Federal government of current scientific evidence on topics related to diet, nutrition, and health. It provides the Federal government with a foundation for developing national nutrition policy. However, the Advisory Report is not the Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy or a draft of the policy. The Federal government will determine how it will use the information in the Advisory Report as the government develops the 2015 version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. HHS and USDA will jointly release the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015 later this year.
Sections of the Advisory Committee report related to alcohol are copied in the full Forum critique, which is available at www.bu.edu/alcohol-forum/critique-158. The full Advisory Committee report can be assessed at the following address: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/PDFs/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf.
Forum Comments Members of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (the Forum) have reviewed the sections of the Advisory Committee’s report that relate to the consumption of alcohol. They consider the report to be well written and a very clear statement on alcohol and health, one that generally reflects current scientific data. Some Forum members thought that for dietary guidelines, there should have been more emphasis on the inclusion of moderate alcohol consumption as part of a Mediterranean-type diet, which is described in the report as being associated with very favorable health outcomes. The Forum found it interesting that the health problems associated with alcohol receive extensive detailed notice, but substantial favorable effects are barely mentioned. For example, while the comments on the increase in the risk of breast cancer are warranted, there is no mention that moderate alcohol consumption provides substantial protection against ischemic cardiovascular events, despite consistent and extensive data showing that the latter issue has a major public health benefit. Also, lacking any explanatory statements, the public and health professionals may be confused as to the basis for the recommendation that alcohol is “an important component of a healthy lifestyle.” So we recommend that some explanations for the statement, based on the relevant scientific literature, should be included. (Further, the report does not describe the favorable effects of moderate drinking on sociability, stress reduction, and relaxation, which are key reasons why most people consume alcohol in the first place.)
Despite our concerns, given that this is a statement that must get approval by a large number of governmental agencies and a variety of interested parties, it is consistent with current epidemiological data as well as mechanistic studies. The Forum strongly agrees that current scientific evidence indicates that, for mature adults without contraindications to alcohol use, moderate alcohol consumption can be included as a component of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
For the full critique of the report by members of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, please click here.