23 February 2021 In General Health
Purpose This paper aims to evaluate the use of Mendelian randomization (MR) analyses for judging the effects of alcohol consumption on the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).Design/methodology/approach This paper presents a review of methodology for MR and describes its early application to judging health effects of alcohol, current uses and a recommended approach of combining MR results with those from observational and experimental studies.Findings Early applications of MR to health effects of alcohol consumption were inadequate for providing unbiased results, but newer attempts using polygenic scores show promise. It is important to combine data from MR analyses with those from observational and experimental studies to obtain an unbiased and scientifically sound estimate of alcohol’s effects on health.Practical implications Giving advice to the public regarding alcohol consumption must be based on accurate, unbiased scientific data; this paper describes attempts to use MR for achieving this goal.Social implications Given that light-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lower risk of CHD, type II diabetes mellitus and total mortality, it is important to be able to evaluate both the benefits and harms from alcohol before giving advice regarding drinking.Originality/value This is part of a group of three papers dealing with the potential health benefits and harms associated with alcohol consumption.
23 February 2021 In General Health
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to review the conceptual and methodological challenges of a J-shaped association between alcohol consumption (AC), coronary heart disease (CHD) and all-cause mortality. In associated papers in this journal, Skovenborg et al., 2021 reviews the evidence for the J-shaped curve, and Ellison et al., 2021 examines the advantages and drawbacks of Mendelian randomization studies of the J-shaped curve.Design/methodology/approach A number of methodological problems are common in observational research in general, and some of the methodological problems suggested for the J-shaped alcohol-CHD-associations are discussed. The extent of the methodological problems in studies of the J-shaped curve is reviewed, and the possibility that the J-shaped curve is an artifact created by reverse causality and residual confounding is discussed. Further, the issue of interaction with drinking pattern and type of alcohol is discussed.Findings Imprecise categorization of alcohol intake information seems to have had little effect on the J-shaped alcohol-CHD-associations, nor has it affected the ability of these studies to show increasing mortality from a range of causes with increasing AC. The problem of “sick quitters” has been resolved by large studies using lifelong abstainers or infrequent drinkers as reference group. Many studies lack information on drinking patterns with regard to regular, moderate consumption versus binge drinking. Stratified analyses by important risk factors for CHD have not significantly changed the J-shaped association observed in most epidemiologic studies.Originality/value Potential biases and residual confounding probably do not overcome the J-shaped alcohol-CDH-association observed in most epidemiologic studies; however, the existence of a J-shaped curve is challenged by some degree of uncertainty. The actual review together with the associated papers by Skovenborg et al., 2021 and Ellison et al., 2021 offers a possibility to “update your priors” and achieve greater certainty when giving your patients information on the pros and cons of alcohol intake.
23 February 2021 In General Health
Purpose The purpose of this paper is a review of updated evidence of a J-shaped association between alcohol consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and all-cause mortality in relation to public health issues to create a basis for sensible individual health deliberations.Design/methodology/approach A review of the evidence from the first observation of a J-shaped association between a moderate alcohol intake and CHD in 1926 to recent studies of the effect of healthy lifestyles (including moderate alcohol intake) on life expectancy free of cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and Type 2 diabetes. An update on the biological plausibility of the J-shaped association with focus on recent findings of the association of alcohol intake and blood lipid levels.Findings Plausible J-shaped relations between light to moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of CHD, CVD mortality and all-cause mortality have been found in a large number of robust epidemiological studies. Among the potential mechanisms underlying the proposed protective effects are higher levels of high-density lipoprotein lacking apolipoprotein C3, reduced platelet aggregability, increased level of endothelial cell fibrinolysis, increased insulin sensitivity and decreased inflammation.Originality/value The existence of a J-shaped association between alcohol consumption and the risk of CHD and all-cause mortality is based on observational evidence and accordingly challenged by a degree of uncertainty leading some public health circles to state: “there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.” The authors propose that communication on the pros and cons of alcohol intake should emphasize the nadir of a J-shaped curve as a healthy range for the general population while advice regarding the consumption of alcohol should be adjusted to factor in the risks and potential benefits for each individual patient considering age, sex, family history, personal drinking history and specific medical history.
23 February 2021 In Drinking Patterns
Existing studies addressing alcohol consumption have not captured the multidimensionality of drinking patterns, including drinking frequency, binge drinking, beverage preference and changes in these measures across the adult life course. We examined longitudinal trends in drinking patterns and their association with diet over four decades in ageing US adults from the Framingham Offspring Study (n 4956; baseline mean age 36.2 years). Alcohol intake (drinks/week, drinking frequency, beverage-specific consumption, drinks/occasion) was assessed quadrennially from examinations 1 to 8. Participants were classified as binge drinkers, moderate drinkers or heavy drinkers (4+ and 5+ drinks/occasion; =1 and =2 drinks/d and >7 and >14 drinks/week for women and men, respectively). Dietary data were collected by a FFQ from examinations 5 to 8 (1991-2008). We evaluated trends in drinking patterns using linear mixed effect models and compared dietary intake across drinking patterns using heterogeneous variance models. Alcohol consumption decreased from 1971 to 2008 (3.7 v. 2.2 oz/week; P
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