Is Alcohol Healthy? We’ll Know in About Six Years (Maybe)
A $100 million study is being launched to determine the effect of booze on our bodies.
No one will deny that alcohol can have its downsides. But can moderate drinking actually be beneficial to your health? The information seems to change daily. For instance, last year, we ran stories entitled “Moderate Drinking Can Help Protect Our Hearts, Study Says” and “Worst Study Ever Says Booze Doesn't Have The Health Benefits We Were All Counting On” in the same month! Don’t blame our editorial staff, and don’t blame the scientists: The results of these types of studies are often complicated and contradictory (and always taken with a grain of salt). However, new research is hoping to get to the bottom of the moderate drinking debate once and for all. But believe it or not, according to the New York Times, this study is already brewing up controversy before the participants have even been selected.
On its surface, this proposed new research from the National Institutes of Health sounds like an excellent way to finally answer the question “Can one drink a day help lower your risk for heart attacks, strokes and death?” The plan for the expansive $100 million study is to recruit around 8,000 volunteers that fit very specific criteria from 16 areas around the world. Half will randomly be selected to only have one drink per day, while the other half will have to abstain from drinking all together. Then these two groups will be followed for six whole years. Even the scientists behind the ambitious plan say it’s going to be tricky to pull off.
But before it’s even begun, the results may already be in doubt. Specifically, the New York Times has questioned where that $100 million dollars in funding is coming from. One of the answers, it appears, is five of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Carlsberg. Combined, these companies have pledged $67.7 million to a foundation raising money for the National Institutes of Health. That, coupled with the history of some of the researchers behind the study, has led the Times to wonder if these parties may be too intertwined for their own good.
“The study could completely backfire on the alcoholic beverage industry, and they’re going to have to live with it,” George F. Koop, who will be involved with the research, told the Times. “The money from the Foundation for the N.I.H. has no string attached. Whoever donates to that fund has no leverage whatsoever – no contribution to the study, no input to the study, no say whatsoever.”
Still, it’s easy to see why the money trail could be worrisome. Granted, maybe not as worrisome as if the study backfires on all of us moderate drinkers out there, but worrisome nonetheless.
[h/t Grub Street]