29 October 2018 In Liver Disease

INTRODUCTION: It is unclear whether low levels of alcohol are harmful in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We aimed to determine whether quantity, binge pattern consumption, or type of alcohol was associated with liver fibrosis in patients with NAFLD.

METHODS: Previous and current alcohol consumption was assessed in NAFLD patients undergoing liver biopsy. All subjects currently consumed /=4 standard drinks (female) or >/=5 standard drinks (male) in one sitting. Liver biopsies were scored according to the NASH CRN system with F3/4 fibrosis defined as advanced.

RESULTS: Among 187 patients (24% with advanced fibrosis), the median weekly alcohol consumption was 20 (2.3-60) g over an average of 18 years. Modest consumption (1-70 g per week) was associated with lower mean fibrosis stage compared to lifetime abstainers (p < 0.05) and a decreased risk of advanced fibrosis (OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.14-0.78, p = 0.01). The association with reduced fibrosis was not seen in subjects drinking in a binge-type fashion. Exclusive wine drinkers but not exclusive beer drinkers, had lower mean fibrosis stage and lower odds of advanced fibrosis (OR 0.20, 95% CI 0.06-0.69, p = 0.01), compared to lifetime abstinent subjects. No interaction between gender and alcohol quantity, type, or binge consumption on fibrosis was observed.

DISCUSSION: Modest (1-70 g per week) alcohol consumption, particularly wine in a non-binge pattern, is associated with lower fibrosis in patients with NAFLD. Prospective longitudinal studies into fibrosis progression, cardiovascular outcomes, and mortality are required before clinical recommendations can be made.

18 May 2018 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Low-risk limits recommended for alcohol consumption vary substantially across different national guidelines. To define thresholds associated with lowest risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease, we studied individual-participant data from 599 912 current drinkers without previous cardiovascular disease.

METHODS: We did a combined analysis of individual-participant data from three large-scale data sources in 19 high-income countries (the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration, EPIC-CVD, and the UK Biobank). We characterised dose-response associations and calculated hazard ratios (HRs) per 100 g per week of alcohol (12.5 units per week) across 83 prospective studies, adjusting at least for study or centre, age, sex, smoking, and diabetes. To be eligible for the analysis, participants had to have information recorded about their alcohol consumption amount and status (ie, non-drinker vs current drinker), plus age, sex, history of diabetes and smoking status, at least 1 year of follow-up after baseline, and no baseline history of cardiovascular disease. The main analyses focused on current drinkers, whose baseline alcohol consumption was categorised into eight predefined groups according to the amount in grams consumed per week. We assessed alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause mortality, total cardiovascular disease, and several cardiovascular disease subtypes. We corrected HRs for estimated long-term variability in alcohol consumption using 152 640 serial alcohol assessments obtained some years apart (median interval 5.6 years [5th-95th percentile 1.04-13.5]) from 71 011 participants from 37 studies.

FINDINGS: In the 599 912 current drinkers included in the analysis, we recorded 40 310 deaths and 39 018 incident cardiovascular disease events during 5.4 million person-years of follow-up. For all-cause mortality, we recorded a positive and curvilinear association with the level of alcohol consumption, with the minimum mortality risk around or below 100 g per week. Alcohol consumption was roughly linearly associated with a higher risk of stroke (HR per 100 g per week higher consumption 1.14, 95% CI, 1.10-1.17), coronary disease excluding myocardial infarction (1.06, 1.00-1.11), heart failure (1.09, 1.03-1.15), fatal hypertensive disease (1.24, 1.15-1.33); and fatal aortic aneurysm (1.15, 1.03-1.28). By contrast, increased alcohol consumption was log-linearly associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarction (HR 0.94, 0.91-0.97). In comparison to those who reported drinking >0-100-200-350 g per week had lower life expectancy at age 40 years of approximately 6 months, 1-2 years, or 4-5 years, respectively.

INTERPRETATION: In current drinkers of alcohol in high-income countries, the threshold for lowest risk of all-cause mortality was about 100 g/week. For cardiovascular disease subtypes other than myocardial infarction, there were no clear risk thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with lower disease risk. These data support limits for alcohol consumption that are lower than those recommended in most current guidelines.

FUNDING: UK Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework 7, and European Research Council.

03 May 2018 In General Health
BACKGROUND: Hazardous and harmful alcohol use and high blood pressure are central risk factors related to premature non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality worldwide. A reduction in the prevalence of both risk factors has been suggested as a route to reach the global NCD targets. This study aims to highlight that screening and interventions for hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use in primary healthcare can contribute substantially to achieving the NCD targets. METHODS: A consensus conference based on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, experimental studies, and statistical modelling which had been presented and discussed in five preparatory meetings, was undertaken. Specifically, we modelled changes in blood pressure distributions and potential lives saved for the five largest European countries if screening and appropriate intervention rates in primary healthcare settings were increased. Recommendations to handle alcohol-induced hypertension in primary healthcare settings were derived at the conference, and their degree of evidence was graded. RESULTS: Screening and appropriate interventions for hazardous alcohol use and use disorders could lower blood pressure levels, but there is a lack in implementing these measures in European primary healthcare. Recommendations included (1) an increase in screening for hypertension (evidence grade: high), (2) an increase in screening and brief advice on hazardous and harmful drinking for people with newly detected hypertension by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals (evidence grade: high), (3) the conduct of clinical management of less severe alcohol use disorders for incident people with hypertension in primary healthcare (evidence grade: moderate), and (4) screening for alcohol use in hypertension that is not well controlled (evidence grade: moderate). The first three measures were estimated to result in a decreased hypertension prevalence and hundreds of saved lives annually in the examined countries. CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of the outlined recommendations could contribute to reducing the burden associated with hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use and thus to achievement of the NCD targets. Implementation should be conducted in controlled settings with evaluation, including, but not limited to, economic evaluation
01 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

Background and aims The 2011 UN Summit on Non-Communicable Disease failed to call for global action on alcohol marketing despite calls in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan on Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-20 to restrict or ban alcohol advertising. In this paper we ask what it might take to match the global approach to tobacco enshrined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and suggest that public health advocates can learn from the development of the FCTC and the Code of Marketing on infant formula milks and the recent recommendations on restricting food marketing to children.

Methods Narrative review of qualitative accounts of the processes that created and monitor existing codes and treaties to restrict the marketing of consumer products, specifically breast milk substitutes, unhealthy foods and tobacco.

Findings The development of treaties and codes for market restrictions include: (i) evidence of a public health crisis; (ii) the cost of inaction; (iii) civil society advocacy; (iv) the building of capacity; (v) the management of conflicting interests in policy development; and (vi) the need to consider monitoring and accountability to ensure compliance.

Conclusion International public health treaties and codes provide an umbrella under which national governments can strengthen their own legislation, assisted by technical support from international agencies and non-governmental organizations. Three examples of international agreements, those for breast milk substitutes, unhealthy foods and tobacco, can provide lessons for the public health community to make progress on alcohol controls. Lessons include stronger alliances of advocates and health professionals and better tools and capacity to monitor and report current marketing practices and trends.

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