Alcohol writer: USDA “healthy” diet guide to injure Americans for 5 more years

New governmental dietary guidelines are dangerous to the health of America and contradict common sense and evidence-based research, including research by the very organization that released the five-year recommendation. The 2015-2016 Dietary Guidelines, were released jointly by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) Jan. 7.

BUT… There are no documented health benefits to consuming beverage alcohol. Evidence-based studies provide robust data that conclusively demonstrate alcohol’s undisputed ability to ruin otherwise healthy tissue. It isn’t a health-conscious dietary addition in any amount.

The eighth edition of the government’s guidelines state: “If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age.” The statement leads to an alcohol appendix, which, “in 300 words doesn’t mention a single health consequence of drinking a toxin.” The appendix: If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men—and only by adults of legal drinking age. For those who choose to drink, moderate alcohol consumption can be incorporated into the calorie limits of most healthy eating patterns. The Dietary Guidelines does not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason; however, it does recommend that all foods and beverages consumed be accounted for within healthy eating patterns. Alcohol is not a component of the USDA Food Patterns. Thus, if alcohol is consumed, the calories from alcohol should be accounted for so that the limits on calories for other uses and total calories are not exceeded. For the purposes of evaluating amounts of alcohol that may be consumed, the Dietary Guidelines includes drink-equivalents [table]. One alcoholic drink-equivalent is described as containing 14 g (0.6 fl oz) of pure alcohol. The following are reference beverages that are one alcoholic drink-equivalent: 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol). Packaged (e.g., canned beer, bottled wine) and mixed beverages (e.g., margarita, rum and soda, mimosa, sangria) vary in alcohol content. For this reason it is important to determine how many alcoholic drink-equivalents are in the beverage and limit intake. [Table] lists reference beverages that are one drink-equivalent and provides examples of alcoholic drink-equivalents in other alcoholic beverages.

First of all, to endorse any amount of alcohol for a person with the disease of alcoholism – which afflicts 21 million Americans – is entirely irresponsible, yet they only caution those who are pregnant. Secondly, the guidelines are said to be “components of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet to help promote health and prevent chronic disease such as cancer, hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.” Alcohol use – even moderate use – is a risk factor for all five of those chronic diseases. Consider the evidence-based data:

  • Cancer: Even moderate alcohol use may substantially increase the risk of dying from cancer, according to a study published in Feb. 2012 in theAmerican Journal of Public Health. Alcohol use accounts for about 3.5 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths annually, according to the study. “Most deaths seemed to occur among people who consumed more than three alcoholic drinks a day, but those who consumed 1.5 beverages daily may account for up to one-third of those deaths,” the researchers concluded.
  • Hypertension: Even modest alcohol consumption can cause blood pressure to increase, according to two studies conducted in Japan. Noriyuki Nakanishi, M.D., Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan and lead author of one of the studies, concluded that even very low alcohol consumption can be a health risk, especially older adults. Nakanishi and his research team observed that systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) went up 1.4 points in those between the ages of 25 and 35, but increased 5.4 points for men between the ages of 48 and 59, for just 12g-22g of alcohol per day. A glass of wine contains about 20g alcohol on average. In the second of the two studies, researchers from Kyushu University followed more than 1,100 people over age 40 for 10 years. One hundred men and 106 women developed hypertension, with the risk of developing hypertension higher for drinkers, even those who drank less than 23 grams daily. Both Japanese studies were published in the journal Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research.Quitting drinking has the expected benefit of reducing blood pressure. In one study reported in the journal Hypertension, researchers concluded that a reduction in alcohol intake among drinkers significantly reduced their blood pressure. They found that when alcohol consumption fell by 16 to 100 percent, there were significant drops in systolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) also dropped significantly in eight clinical trials. The greatest drop in blood pressure was seen in patients with the highest blood pressure before treatment and those who cut back on alcohol the most.
  • Heart Disease: A report released July 2014 in The BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) debunks decades of misinformation about alcohol’s heart-health benefits. According to researchers, even a single glass of wine or beer can be damaging to the heart. The University College London and Pennsylvania University conducted no new experiments or studies. Scientists instead analyzed 50 studies that looked at drinking habits and heart health, with data from more than a quarter-million people. They conclude: less alcohol is the only sure way to improve and protect heart health.Some studies have previously suggested moderate amounts of alcohol could be good for heart health. These studies were dealt a blow in March 2013 when the journal Addiction concluded that such health claims were based on observational studies, not evidence-based ones, and amounted to little more than wishful thinking. (See “Alcohol’s health benefits deemed wishfulthinking”) The authors of the 2014 study concur. “We now have evidence that some of these studies suffer from limitations that may affect the validity of their findings,” said study author Juan Casas, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    Data compiled for the 2012 alcoholism recovery book, Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, also found alcohol had more heart-damaging impact that life-giving benefit. “Alcohol itself raids the body of vitamin B (Thiamin) which is essential for a healthy heart. B-deficiency enlarges the heart and creates distended neck veins, narrow pulse pressure, elevated diastolic blood pressure (the second number in your BP) and peripheral edema. Acetaldehyde [alcohol metabolism byproduct] also physically weakens muscle, the heart being your body’s most important one. The weakening causes damage that accumulates.” Acetaldehyde also increases cholesterol, especially triglycerides. High cholesterol is a leading indicator of heart trouble on the horizon and the number one condition treated with prescription drugs in the U.S.

  • Diabetes: Alcohol use (with moderate use being defined as one drink daily for women, two a day for men) damages the pancreas, the organ responsible for producing insulin naturally to regulate blood sugar. The more a person drinks, the more damage to that organ and the higher the risk of developing prediabetes, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
    According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), prediabetes is when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. Prediabetics are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.The risk of prediabetes may be even higher for people with high blood pressure, according to preliminary research introduced April 18 at the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation’s EuroPRevent meeting. Lucio Mos, of San Antonio Hospital at the University of Padova, Italy, found that patients with high blood pressure who drank more than 10 drinks a day had a six-times higher risk of developing a prediabetic condition.
    Drinking alcohol contributes to diabetes in three ways.
    1. Heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin (according to the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism)
    2.Diabetes is a common side effect of chronic pancreatitis, which is overwhelmingly caused by heavy drinking, especially in men. (See related article on the Y-chromosome and pancreatitis)
    3.Alcohol contains a huge amount of calories. One beer can be equivalent to a slice of pizza. (see article on alcohol calories) The extra calories increase the chance of becoming overweight, another diabetes risk factor.

“Lastly, saying daily consumption is ‘okay’ diminishes the fact that daily use is one warning sign of the disease of addiction,” concludes the recovery advocate and alcohol/health author, who has a chapter in each of his two most recent books detailing the health consequences of alcohol use. “Daily use is a contributing factor to more than 60 other diseases. Including eight cancers. The HHS even lists the drug (alcohol) as a known, not a suspected, human carcinogen in its 13th list of carcinogens released only four months ago.” (See “Alcohol: A carcinogen hiding in plain sight” and the HHS Report on Cancinogens)

The author notes dietary guidance for the UK, released in the same week as the US recommendations, clearly stated there is no justification to drink for health reasons, and consumption of any level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers. “We’re on the same planet, using the same data, but we’re clearly not on the same page when it comes to promoting public health.”