BACKGROUND: Alcohol and in particular red wine have both immunomodulatory and neuroprotective properties, and may exert an effect on the disease course of multiple sclerosis (MS).

OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between alcohol and red wine consumption and MS course.

METHODS: MS patients enrolled in the Comprehensive Longitudinal Investigation of Multiple Sclerosis at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (CLIMB) who completed a self-administered questionnaire about their past year drinking habits at a single time point were included in the study. Alcohol and red wine consumption were measured as servings/week. The primary outcome was the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) at the time of the questionnaire. Secondary clinical outcomes were the Multiple Sclerosis Severity Score (MSSS) and number of relapses in the year before the questionnaire. Secondary MRI outcomes included brain parenchymal fraction and T2 hyperintense lesion volume (T2LV). Appropriate regression models were used to test the association of alcohol and red wine intake on clinical and MRI outcomes. All analyses were controlled for sex, age, body mass index, disease phenotype (relapsing vs. progressive), the proportion of time on disease modifying therapy during the previous year, smoking exposure, and disease duration. In the models for the MRI outcomes, analyses were also adjusted for acquisition protocol.

RESULTS: 923 patients (74% females, mean age 47 +/- 11 years, mean disease duration 14 +/- 9 years) were included in the analysis. Compared to abstainers, patients drinking more than 4 drinks per week had a higher likelihood of a lower EDSS score (OR, 0.41; p = 0.0001) and lower MSSS (mean difference, - 1.753; p = 0.002) at the time of the questionnaire. Similarly, patients drinking more than 3 glasses of red wine per week had greater odds of a lower EDSS (OR, 0.49; p = 0.0005) and lower MSSS (mean difference, - 0.705; p = 0.0007) compared to nondrinkers. However, a faster increase in T2LV was observed in patients consuming 1-3 glasses of red wine per week compared to nondrinkers.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher total alcohol and red wine intake were associated with a lower cross-sectional level of neurologic disability in MS patients but increased T2LV accumulation. Further studies should explore a potential cause-effect neuroprotective relationship, as well as the underlying biological mechanisms.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: There is little knowledge about the consumption of alcohol among Chinese and Norwegian older adults aged 65 years and over. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence and factors related to alcohol consumption among older adults in China and Norway.

METHODS: The Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) data in 2008-2009 conducted in China and The Nord-Trondelag Health Study data in 2006-2008 (HUNT3) conducted in Norway were used. Mulitvariable logistic regression was used to test the factors related to alcohol consumption.

RESULTS: The prevalence of participants who drink alcohol in the Chinese and Norwegian sample were 19.88% and 46.2%, respectively. The weighted prevalence of participants with consumption of alcohol in the Chinese sample of women and men were 7.20% and 34.14%, respectively. In the Norwegian sample, the prevalence of consumption of alcohol were 43.31% and 65.35% for women and men, respectively. Factors such as younger age, higher level of education, living in urban areas, living with spouse or partner, and better health status were related to higher likelihood of alcohol consumption among Norwegian older women and men; while reported better health status and poorer life satisfaction were related to higher likelihood of alcohol consumption among Chinese. In addition, rural males and older females with higher level of education were more likely to consume alcohol.

CONCLUSION: The alcohol consumption patterns were quite different between China and Norway. Besides economic development levels and cultures in the two different countries, demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, overall health status, and life satisfaction were associated with alcohol consumption as well.

Published in General Health

BACKGROUND: Previous studies have revealed inconsistent findings regarding the association of light to moderate alcohol consumption with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer mortality.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine the association between alcohol consumption and risk of mortality from all causes, cancer, and CVD in U.S. adults. METHODS: Data were obtained by linking 13 waves of the National Health Interview Surveys (1997 to 2009) to the National Death Index records through December 31, 2011. A total of 333,247 participants >/=18 years of age were included. Self-reported alcohol consumption patterns were categorized into 6 groups: lifetime abstainers; lifetime infrequent drinkers; former drinkers; and current light, moderate, or heavy drinkers. Secondary exposure included participants' binge-drinking status. The main outcome was all-cause, cancer, or CVD mortality.

RESULTS: After a median follow-up of 8.2 years (2.7 million person-years), 34,754 participants died of all causes (including 8,947 CVD deaths and 8,427 cancer deaths). Compared with lifetime abstainers, those who were light or moderate alcohol consumers were at a reduced risk of mortality for all causes (light-hazard ratio [HR]: 0.79; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.76 to 0.82; moderate-HR: 0.78; 95% CI: 0.74 to 0.82) and CVD (light-HR: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.69 to 0.80; moderate-HR: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.64 to 0.78), respectively. In contrast, there was a significantly increased risk of mortality for all causes (HR: 1.11; 95% CI: 1.04 to 1.19) and cancer (HR: 1.27; 95% CI: 1.13 to 1.42) in adults with heavy alcohol consumption. Binge drinking >/=1 d/week was also associated with an increased risk of mortality for all causes (HR: 1.13; 95% CI: 1.04 to 1.23) and cancer (HR: 1.22; 95% CI: 1.05 to 1.41).

CONCLUSIONS: Light and moderate alcohol intake might have a protective effect on all-cause and CVD-specific mortality in U.S. adults. Heavy or binge drinking was associated with increased risk of all-cause and cancer-specific mortality.

Published in General Health

'Responsible drinking' campaigns emerged in the early 1970s as a means of addressing hazardous drinking and its related consequences. While these were initially the product of public health agencies and health-related NGOs, they are increasingly being developed and disseminated by the alcohol industry. There is considerable debate as to whether industry-generated campaigns are designed to reduce hazardous drinking and related problems (as argued by their developers) or are designed to avoid government regulation or even to increase sales. The aim of the present study was to explore the way that recent industry-developed responsible drinking campaigns are perceived and interpreted by the general public. That is, do they promote low-risk drinking, promote risky drinking, or just muddy the waters. Two sub-studies were conducted. The first, a mall intercept study with 180 adults in two Australian shopping districts, explored participants' understanding of slogans/taglines. The second, an online survey with 480 Australian adults, explored understandings and interpretations of television/online commercials. The results of the two studies revealed diversity in participants' interpretation of the 'responsible drinking' advertisements. Terminology utilised in industry-developed advertisements was found to be ambiguous; for example, what age group was being referred to in the tagline 'Kids and alcohol don't mix', and whether 'Drink Properly' meant not drinking to excess or drinking in a way that made you look more sophisticated. In Study Two, the government-developed campaign ('Know when to say when') was clearly interpreted as warning against risky consumption of alcohol; whereas the industry-developed campaigns ('How to drink properly', 'Kids absorb your drinking', 'Friends are waiting') were interpreted to have a range of different meanings, including some seemingly unrelated to alcohol. These findings are consistent with the literature evaluating anti-smoking campaigns developed by the tobacco industry, and previous research showing that industry communications serve to soften public opinion and create the impression of a 'socially responsible' industry but are likely to be less effective than initiatives focused on the availability and promotion of alcohol.

Published in Drinking Patterns
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