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Tag Archives: neo-Prohibitionists

What the media didn’t tell you about the CDC alcohol death study

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CDC binge drinkingThis is not a critique of the science in the Centers for Disease Control study that equated drinking wine with dinner as binge drinking. I’m not a doctor or researcher. I’m also not questioning the health, emotional, and social costs of alcoholism; I’ve attended too many funerals.

Rather, this is a critique (based on a story I wrote for the Wine Business International trade magazine) of the shoddy and slipshod reporting done by most of the media, wine and otherwise, when the study was released. That is something I am qualified to do after 35 years as a journalist.

Journalism, something that I love and have spent my professional life trying to do well, is in a sorry state. How the study was covered demonstrates this all too well. Too many news organizations, regardless of size or reputation, are lazy, sloppy, and willing to accept what someone says — be it the CDC, the government, or big business — without asking questions. And journalism is about asking questions. These days, though, it’s cheaper and easier and less offensive to advertisers if you re-write a news release, throw some hyperlinks in it, and call it reporting. Or rewrite what another news organization has already rewritten.

My reason for being, even in wine, is to try not to do that. Here are the questions the media didn’t ask when the CDC study was released:

• Where did the excessive drinking standard come from? Why is the standard eight drinks a week for women and 15 for men? In fact, these come from a 2006 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and are based on the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines: “drink alcoholic beverages… in moderation, which is defined as no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.” Which is not exactly the same thing as excessive drinking.

• Why does this study contradict what one eminent cardiologist told me “is a reasonable certainty, based on hundreds of studies over the past decade, that moderate drinking as part of the Mediterranean diet that includes fruits and vegetables, olive oil, and wine, will benefit cardiac health. It’s the difference between partying and wine with a meal.”

• Why now? Why is alcohol suddenly in the spotlight? Note that the CDC study came in the wake of the proposal by the National Transportation Safety Board to lower the blood alcohol limit for drunken driving by one-third.

• Why these solutions — higher taxes, fewer liquor licenses for stores and restaurants, and an end to wet-dry elections and state deregulation? Will these prevent alcoholism, or will they penalize responsible drinkers?

Winebits 341: The Neo-Prohibitionists’ new study

winenews

Neo-Prohibitionist studyA roundup of the recent news from the Centers for Disease Control that excessive drinking is killing 1 in 10 working-age Americans, another scientific study in the Neo-Prohibitionist effort to stop us from drinking by scaring us to death. And where no one bothered to check this out:

NPR’s sobering picture: The bad pun is there because, believe it or not, someone working for a major U.S. news outlet used the pun in the story. The report, written by Nancy Shute, says 1 in 6 of us binge drink, but doesn’t question one of the study’s definitions of excessive drinking: eight drinks a week for women and 15 for men. Which implies that most core wine drinkers in the U.S. are binging, including the Wine Curmudgeon. So why is two glasses of wine with dinner excessive? I expect more from NPR, which usually does better reporting than its competitors and doesn’t accept on faith whatever the government says.

Got to have charts:The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein seemed quite surprised at the statistics in the study, including what he called “the eye-opening charts included in the report.” Maybe. But there were almost 15,000 homicides in the U.S. in 2012, according to the FBI, while the CDC attributed about half of those to excessive drinking. That difference is what’s eye-opening to me: That about the same number of us killed someone and weren’t drunk when we did it. Does this mean we need to regulate sobriety?

Get rid of booze, get rid of the problem: The solution to all of this? “.. [I]ncreasing alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol outlet density, and avoiding further privatization of alcohol retail sales.” Which, of course, is exactly the aim of the NeoDrys — regulate drinking by making it more expensive, reducing the number of places where we can buy it, and keeping government involved in selling it, as in Pennsylvania. This is instead of outlawing drinking, which didn’t work the last time. That education, and not regulation is the answer seems to be beyond their understanding. Perhaps someone can explain why Pennsylvania, with some of the most restrictive liquor laws in the country, had the same death rate as Illinois, where you can buy scotch at the drug store, or Louisiana, where drinking is a tourist industry?

Wine will kill you — or not

winerant

Wine will kill you -- or notThe Wine Curmudgeon will periodically relax his long-time ban on wine-related health news on the blog to remind everyone why there is a ban on health news on the blog. Like when we’re told wine will kill you — or not:

A former World Health Organization official says “moderate drinking is better than abstaining and heavy drinking is worse than abstaining -– however the moderate amounts can be higher than the guidelines say,” as much as a bottle of wine a day.

A current World Health Organization officlal says half of new cancers over the next 20 years are preventable if people change their lifestyles, and that includes giving up drinking.

How are we supposed to make a decision given such contradictory opinions from two people who seem to have the same qualifications? It’s enough, if you don’t mind the bad joke, to drive one to drink.

Some of this, as noted before, is sloppy reporting. But some of it is the medical community, which often lumps drinking with tobacco as inherently evil — except when it doesn’t. Too many studies are either limited in scope or seem to pick and choose to fit the researcher’s agenda. Cases in point: The alcoholism rate in the U.S. is about 8 percent for adults, while it may be as high as 14 percent in Russia. And that a majority of alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. involve non-Latino whites, but that the highest death rates were among Native Americans and Alaska Natives. None of the numbers offers the demographic pattern for a one size fits all solution.

One day, perhaps, the medical community will figure this out. Until then, the ban remains.

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