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Flaw found in ‘no safe level of drinking’ claim

A headline-grabbing study published by The Lancet three years ago claiming that there is “no ‘safe’ level of alcohol consumption” has been shown to be flawed.

‘A glass of wine with dinner is fine after all,’ states The Times today

According to an article in The Times today, a paper that’s due to be published in The International Journal of Epidemiology has shown that The Lancet study, which came out in 2018 ago, has flaws in its analysis.

As reported by db at the time, the piece of research that featured in The Lancet concluded that there is no “safe” level of alcohol consumption, a finding that came in sharp contrast to a large body of evidence showing that moderate drinking offers protection against certain diseases, especially cardiovascular ones.

As The Times’s health editor Kat Lay reports today, The Lancet study was based on 500,000 people, and used “analytic techniques based on genetics to overturn previous claims that one or two drinks a day could in fact be protective.”

However, in the soon-to-be published paper in The International Journal of Epidemiology, Sir Nicholas Wald, of University College London, and Chris Frost, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, claim that The Lancet analysis was flawed.

As reported by The Times, Wald’s message is “not to encourage drinking, but to recognise that a study that concluded there was no safe limit in alcohol consumption has a flaw in the analysis”.

In conclusion, he says, “One need not feel that the only safe alcohol intake is zero.”

Earlier this year, we reported on a seminar on wine and weight management which drew on a study called PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) to show that wine drinkers, particularly those having between 7 and 14 units per week, had a lower number of cardiovascular risk factors compared to non-drinkers, which was measured by looking at glucose tolerance and triglycerides levels among the 7,500 randomised participants.

Meanwhile, using evidence from a Brazilian study considering the timing and type of alcohol consumption and the Metabolic syndrome (which is a medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity), it was also shown that moderate wine consumption had a “protective effect” in terms of reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes when drunk with meals, but a “neutral effect” when drunk outside.

In keeping with this finding, although not as a result of it, the article in The Times today states, ‘A glass of wine with dinner is fine after all’.

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