22 February 2019 In General Health

We estimated calorie intake from alcohol in Canada, overall and by gender, age, and province, and provide evidence to advocate for mandatory alcohol labelling requirements. Annual per capita (aged 15+) alcohol sales data in litres of pure ethanol by beverage type were taken from Statistics Canada's CANSIM database and converted into calories. The apportionment of consumption by gender, age, and province was based on data from the Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drug Survey. Estimated energy requirements (EER) were from Canada's Food Guide. The average drinker consumed 250 calories, or 11.2% of their daily EER in the form of alcohol, with men (13.3%) consuming a higher proportion of their EER from alcohol than women (8.2%). Drinkers consumed more than one-tenth of their EER from alcohol in all but one province. By beverage type, beer contributes 52.7% of all calories derived from alcohol, while wine (20.8%); spirits (19.8%); and ciders, coolers, and other alcohol (6.7%) also contribute substantially. The substantial caloric impact of alcoholic drinks in the Canadian diet suggests that the addition of caloric labelling on these drinks is a necessary step.

22 February 2019 In Drinking & Driving

BACKGROUND: Drink driving is an important risk factor for road traffic accidents (RTAs), which cause high levels of morbidity and mortality globally. Lowering the permitted blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers is a common public health intervention that is enacted in countries and jurisdictions across the world. In Scotland, on Dec 5, 2014, the BAC limit for drivers was reduced from 0.08 g/dL to 0.05 g/dL. We therefore aimed to evaluate the effects of this change on RTAs and alcohol consumption.

METHODS: In this natural experiment, we used an observational, comparative interrupted time-series design by use of data on RTAs and alcohol consumption in Scotland (the interventional group) and England and Wales (the control group). We obtained weekly counts of RTAs from police accident records and we estimated weekly off-trade (eg, in supermarkets and convenience stores) and 4-weekly on-trade (eg, in bars and restaurants) alcohol consumption from market research data. We also used data from automated traffic counters as denominators to calculate RTA rates. We estimated the effect of the intervention on RTAs by use of negative binomial panel regression and on alcohol consumption outcomes by use of seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average models. Our primary outcome was weekly rates of RTAs in Scotland, England, and Wales. This study is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN38602189.

FINDINGS: We assessed the weekly rate of RTAs and alcohol consumption between Jan 1, 2013, and Dec 31, 2016, before and after the BAC limit came into effect on Dec 5, 2014. After the reduction in BAC limits for drivers in Scotland, we found no significant change in weekly RTA rates after adjustment for seasonality and underlying temporal trend (rate ratio 1.01, 95% CI 0.94-1.08; p=0.77) or after adjustment for seasonality, the underlying temporal trend, and the driver characteristics of age, sex, and socioeconomic deprivation (1.00, 0.96-1.06; p=0.73). Relative to RTAs in England and Wales, where the reduction in BAC limit for drivers did not occur, we found a 7% increase in weekly RTA rates in Scotland after this reduction in BAC limit for drivers (1.07, 1.02-1.13; p=0.007 in the fully-adjusted model). Similar findings were observed for serious or fatal RTAs and single-vehicle night-time RTAs. The change in legislation in Scotland was associated with no change in alcohol consumption, measured by per-capita off-trade sales (-0.3%, -1.7 to 1.1; p=0.71), but a 0.7% decrease in alcohol consumption measured by per-capita on-trade sales (-0.7%, -0.8 to -0.5; p<0.0001).

INTERPRETATION: Lowering the driving BAC limit to 0.05 g/dL from 0.08 g/dL in Scotland was not associated with a reduction in RTAs, but this change was associated with a small reduction in per-capita alcohol consumption from on-trade alcohol sales. One plausible explanation is that the legislative change was not suitably enforced-for example with random breath testing measures. Our findings suggest that changing the legal BAC limit for drivers in isolation does not improve RTA outcomes. These findings have significant policy implications internationally as several countries and jurisdictions consider a similar reduction in the BAC limit for drivers.

FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme.

05 December 2018 In General Health

Evidence on the relationship between alcohol consumption and body mass index (BMI) is mixed, particularly for young adults. This study explored the relationship between energy obtained from alcoholic beverages and BMI using data for 18(-)25 year-olds (n = 7691) from pooled cross-sections of the 2008(-)2014 Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. Energy obtained from alcoholic beverages (excluding mixers) on the heaviest drinking day in the past week was expressed as percentage of total recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of energy (% RDA Energy). Linear regressions were estimated of BMI on alcohol intake categories controlling for intake frequency, physical activity, longstanding illness and other covariates, with separate analyses for men and women, and by beverage type. Significant associations with BMI were observed with the 'Very High' category of alcohol intake (>75% RDA Energy) for men (p < 0.001, 1.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.98, 2.49) and with the "High" (>50% to 75% RDA Energy) (p < 0.001, 1.67, 95% CI 0.26, 2.58) and above category for women, when compared with the Low (>0(-)25% RDA Energy) category. Young adults drinking the highest levels of alcohol on a single occasion were more likely to be obese than those with the lowest intake. Interventions to address internationally rising youth obesity rates should also consider reducing alcohol consumption by increasing alcohol prices, and reducing availability and marketing exposure.

29 October 2018 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

OBJECTIVE: Labels indicating low/light versions of tobacco and foods are perceived as less harmful, which may encourage people to consume more. There is an absence of evidence concerning the impact on consumption of labeling alcohol products as lower in strength. The current study tests the hypothesis that labeling wine and beer as lower in alcohol increases their consumption.

METHOD: Weekly wine and beer drinkers (n = 264) sampled from a representative panel of the general population of England were randomized to one of three groups to taste test drinks in a bar-laboratory varying only in the label displayed; Group 1: verbal descriptor Super Low combined with 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) for wine/1% ABV for beer; Group 2: verbal descriptor Low combined with 8% ABV for wine/3% ABV for beer; Group 3: no verbal descriptors of strength (Regular). Primary outcome was total volume (ml) of drink consumed.

RESULTS: The results supported the study hypothesis: the total amount of drink consumed increased as the label on the drink denoted successively lower alcohol strength, BLin = .71, p = .015, 95% CI [0.13, 1.30]. Group contrasts showed significant differences between those offered drinks labeled as Super Low (M = 213.77) compared with Regular (M = 176.85), B = 1.43, p = .019, 95% CI [0.24, 2.61]. There was no significant difference in amount consumed between those offered drinks labeled as Low compared with Regular.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that labeling drinks as lower in strength increases the amount consumed. Further studies are warranted to test for replication in non-laboratory settings and to estimate whether any effects are at a level with the potential to harm health.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN15530806. (PsycINFO Database Record)

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