01 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

CONTEXT: Transnational alcohol corporations (TACs) employ a range of strategies to achieve their business objectives, including attempts to frame perceptions of their activities in media debates. TACs aim to achieve a favourable regulatory environment by presenting themselves as socially responsible actors. However, the need to secure financial investment means they must also emphasise their potential for growth. This article investigates tensions between these objectives in coverage of the global alcohol industry in the UK print media.

METHODS: This article examines coverage of the world's four largest TACs in five British daily newspapers and one industry publication between March 2012 and February 2013. 477 articles were identified for analysis through keyword searches of the LexisNexis database. Thematic coding of articles was conducted using Nvivo software.

FINDINGS: Two conflicting framings of the alcohol industry emerge from our analysis. The first presents TACs as socially responsible actors; key partners to government in reducing alcohol-related harms. This is targeted at policy-makers and the public in an attempt to shape policy debates. The second framing highlights TACs' potential for economic growth by establishing new markets and identifying new customer bases. This is targeted at an audience of potential investors.

CONCLUSIONS: A fundamental contradiction lies at the heart of these framings, reflecting the tensions that exist between TACs' political and financial strategies. Alcohol industry involvement in policy-making thus involves a fundamental conflict of interests. Consequently, the UK government should reassess the prominence it currently affords to the industry in the development and delivery of alcohol policy.

01 February 2017 In Cardiovascular System

INTRODUCTION: The cardio-protective effect of alcohol has been the subject of a long-standing scientific controversy. Emerging evidence remains equivocal, as the validity of the dose-dependent J-shape association is tainted by conceptual, theoretical and methodological problems. A major impediment for a resolution on the matter is the lack of a life-long developmental approach to pinpoint alcohol's specific impact on the risk for cardio-vascular events (CVE).

OBJECTIVE: Using retrospective and prospective individual-level data of alcohol consumption (AC) we applied a model-based clustering technique to uncover life-course trajectories of AC and explored their links to CVE.

METHODS: Data stemmed from a random sub-cohort of a large-scale, longitudinal study conducted in the Netherlands (N=2288). Group Based Trajectory Model (GBTM) was applied to extract distinct progressions of AC over time. Stratified by sex, the association between the developmental trajectories and CVE was examined with multiple logistic regression models, with adjustment for traditional risk factors. RESULTS: GBTM analysis laid bare the heterogeneity of AC dynamics over the life-course, reiterating sex differences in drinking habits and CVE risk. AC temporal behaviors during adolescence and adulthood were diverse, but showed relative stability in in middle-age and elderly years. For males, adjusted odds for CVE differed among the uncovered developmental classes.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings elicited supportive evidence for a J-shape, but with a new twist. Besides moderation the results indicate that onset, timing, duration and stability of AC over the life-course are major aspects to be accounted for when attempting to elucidate alcohol's cardio-vascular role.

15 December 2016 In General Health

Alcohol is often consumed to reduce tension and improve mood when exposed to stressful situations. Previous studies showed that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce stress when alcohol is consumed prior to a stressor, but data on the effect of alcohol consumption after a mental stressor is limited. Therefore, our objective was to study whether moderate alcohol consumption immediately after a mental stressor attenuates the stress response. Twenty-four healthy men (age 21-40 y, BMI 18-27 kg/m2) participated in a placebo-controlled trial. They randomly consumed 2 cans (660 mL, approximately 26 g alcohol) of beer or alcohol-free beer immediately after a mental stressor (Stroop task and Trier Social Stress Test). Physiological and immunological stress response was measured by monitoring heart rate and repeated measures of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis), white blood cells and a set of cytokines. After a mental stressor, cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) concentrations were 100% and 176% more reduced at 60 min (P = 0.012 and P = 0.001, respectively) and 92% and 60% more reduced at 90 min (P < 0.001 and P = 0.056, respectively) after beer consumption as compared to alcohol-free beer consumption. Heart rate and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) were not influenced by alcohol consumption. Plasma IL-8 concentrations remained lower during the stress recovery period after beer consumption than after alcohol-free beer consumption (P < 0.001). In conclusion, consumption of a moderate dose of alcohol after a mental stressor may facilitate recovery of the endocrine stress response as reflected by decreasing plasma ACTH and cortisol.

15 December 2016 In Cardiovascular System

Alcohol is popular in Western culture, supported by a perception that modest intake is cardioprotective. However, excessive drinking has detrimental implications for cardiovascular disease. Atrial fibrillation (AF) following an alcohol binge or the "holiday heart syndrome" is well characterized. However, more modest levels of alcohol intake on a regular basis may also increase the risk of AF. The pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the relationship between alcohol and AF may include direct toxicity and alcohol's contribution to obesity, sleep-disordered breathing, and hypertension. We aim to provide a comprehensive review of the epidemiology and pathophysiology by which alcohol may be responsible for AF and determine whether alcohol abstinence is required for patients with AF.

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