AH Grummon, MG Hall. NEJM 2022; 387: 772-774. Updated Health Warnings for Alcohol — Informing Consumers and Reducing Harm
This article makes a compelling case that most U.S. consumers do not know the true risks of alcohol intake; this is likely in part due to the >$1 billion spent each year on marketing by the alcohol industry.
Leading causes of alcohol-related harms:
- Fatal and nonfatal injuries resulting from acute intoxication (including injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes)
- Chronic diseases including hypertensive heart disease, cirrhosis, pancreatitis and several types of cancer.2 Even light or moderate drinking increases the risk of these conditions, particularly cancer (eg. breast, colon, and stomach)2
- Risks during pregnancy include miscarriage, preterm birth, and fetal alcohol syndrome (these risks are not specifically addressed in this commentary)
- Also not noted in this article, alcohol is considered a major contributor to violence, including intimate partner violence
Key points –Scope of Problem and Informing Consumers:
- “In April 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new mortality statistics showing that alcohol consumption now accounts for more than 140,000 deaths per year in the United States, or more than 380 deaths per day. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated alcohol-associated harm in the United States, with alcohol-related deaths increasing by 25% during the first year of the pandemic as compared with the previous year”(White AM, Castle IP, Powell PA, Hingson RW, Koob GF. Alcohol-related deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic. JAMA 2022;327:1704-1706).
- “A national survey of U.S. adults, for example, found that nearly 70% are unaware that alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer.3…Some alcohol companies even seek to link their products to health campaigns. Several companies, for example, have sold seasonal, pink ribbon–themed alcoholic drinks during October to promote their efforts to raise funds for breast-cancer research — despite compelling evidence that alcohol increases the risk of developing breast cancer.”
- The authors advocate for better warning labels. They argue that “updated alcohol warnings would provide new risk information to many Americans, … implementing such warnings would be a sensible policy for addressing industry dominance over alcohol-related information, even if warnings’ effects on consumption are fairly small.”
Related article: NBC News 11/4/22: Alcohol deaths spiked among middle-aged adults, especially women, during pandemic “Alcohol-related deaths rose by 26% from 2019 to 2020, a new report published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds.”
Related blog post:
- Alcohol Burden in Hepatology
- Legalized Cannabis Associated with Increased Vomiting and Dependency But What About Alcohol?
- Here’s A Bad Idea-Alcohol Consumption on the Day of Liver Transplantation
- Alcohol #1 reason for liver transplantation (2019)
More on COVID-19:
Eric Topol: Paxlovid and Long Covid This in-depth article reviews the benefits of paxlovid (early) and later, including the reduction of Long Covid in 26% in a recent study. It also provides a table for potential drug interactions (Thanks to Jeff Lewis for sharing).
This recent study is reviewed in NY Times (11/7/22): Paxlovid May Reduce Risk of Long Covid in Eligible Patients, Study Finds