Now a $100 million study to tell you if beer is actually a ‘health drink’ as AP minister claimed

A new study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health will test whether drinking moderate levels of alcohol can actually prevent heart attacks.

health Updated: Jul 07, 2017 17:39 IST
Kothapalli Samuel Jawahar,Beer,new liquor policy

Delhi: When Andhra Pradesh prohibition and excise minister Kothapalli Samuel Jawahar, labelled beer as a “health drink” on a TV program, he might have been parroting a controversial claim made by the alcohol industry.

The effects of alcohol are widely debated because research, especially on the effects of moderate consumption, are inconclusive. Some work shows it prevents heart attacks, others link alcohol consumption to cancers. The minister even offered to prove his point: “Come to me, and I will prove that beer is healthy. How can I prove it in a television debate?”

Now, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is doing just that by launching a $100 million clinical trial to answer the question whether moderate drinking helps protect people against heart attacks, according to the New York Times.

The first of its kind trial will recruit almost 8000 participants aged 50 or older at 16 sites in United States, Europe, Africa and South America. The participants will be randomly assigned to either abstain completely from alcohol or drink one alcoholic beverage of their choice every day. Researchers will track the participants over 6 years to see which group is at higher risk of heart disease.

Apart from the risk of heart disease, the study will also be able to track cancer diagnoses, adverse events like car accidents, major falls, but it won’t be able to answer questions about breast cancer risk, which requires a longer-term study and bigger sample.

The research initiative is being criticised because a significant chunk of funds for the study is coming from the alcoholic beverages industry. Five top alcoholic beverage manufacturers — Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Carlsberg have pledged $67.7 million to a foundation at the NIH.

However, others have pointed out that whatever the results of the trial, the industry stands to lose. Results showing alcohol prevents heart disease are likely to be viewed with mistrust, while in the opposite case it could directly impact business.

Gemma R. Hart, vice president for communications at Anheuser-Busch, told the New York Times that the funding was part of their push to promote responsible drinking and “overall commitment to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.”

Andhra Pradesh has battled high levels of alcohol abuse for decades and also hosted a vigorous anti-liquor campaign, led by the women of the state. They are now opposing the ‘New Liquor Policy’ brought into force by the state on July 1 that opponents say increases the inflow of liquor rather than curbing it.

Responding to the situation Jawahar later clarified that he believed people were anyway going to drink anyway and he was only offering up beer as a better alternative to hard liquor. “Beer is a healthier option compared to other forms of liquor because it contains very less alcohol,” he said.

First Published: Jul 07, 2017 17:39 IST