The quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption are crucial both in risk assessment as well as epidemiological and clinical research. Using the Munich Composite International Diagnostic Interview (M-CIDI), drinking amounts have been assessed in numerous large-scale studies. However, the accuracy of this assessment has rarely been evaluated. This study evaluates the relevance of drink categories and pouring sizes, and the factors used to convert actual drinks into standard drinks. We compare the M-CIDI to alternative drink assessment instruments and empirically validate drink categories using a general population sample (n = 3165 from Germany), primary care samples (n = 322 from Italy, n = 1189 from Germany), and a non-representative set of k = 22503 alcoholic beverages sold in Germany in 2010-2016. The M-CIDI supplement sheet displays more categories than other instruments (AUDIT, TLFB, WHO-CIDI). Beer, wine, and spirits represent the most prevalent categories in the samples. The suggested standard drink conversion factors were inconsistent for different pouring sizes of the same drink and, to a smaller extent, across drink categories. For the use in Germany and Italy, we propose the limiting of drink categories and pouring sizes, and a revision of the proposed standard drinks. We further suggest corresponding examinations and revisions in other cultures.

Published in Drinking Patterns

The alcohol industry have attempted to position themselves as collaborators in alcohol policy making as a way of influencing policies away from a focus on the drivers of the harmful use of alcohol (marketing, over availability and affordability). Their framings of alcohol consumption and harms allow them to argue for ineffective measures, largely targeting heavier consumers, and against population wide measures as the latter will affect moderate drinkers. The goal of their public relations organisations is to 'promote responsible drinking'. However, analysis of data collected in the International Alcohol Control study and used to estimate how much heavier drinking occasions contribute to the alcohol market in five different countries shows the alcohol industry's reliance on the harmful use of alcohol. In higher income countries heavier drinking occasions make up approximately 50% of sales and in middle income countries it is closer to two-thirds. It is this reliance on the harmful use of alcohol which underpins the conflicting interests between the transnational alcohol corporations and public health and which militates against their involvement in the alcohol policy arena.

[Caswell S, Callinan S, Chaiyasong S, Cuong PV, Kazantseva E, Bayandorj T, Huckle T, Parker K, Railton R, Wall M. How the alcohol industry relies on harmful use of alcohol and works to protect its profits. Drug Alcohol Rev 2016;35:661-664]

BACKGROUND: Alcohol use during pregnancy is the direct cause of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). We aimed to estimate the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and FAS in the general population and, by linking these two indicators, estimate the number of pregnant women that consumed alcohol during pregnancy per one case of FAS.

METHODS: We began by doing two independent comprehensive systematic literature searches using multiple electronic databases for original quantitative studies that reported the prevalence in the general population of the respective country of alcohol use during pregnancy published from Jan 1, 1984, to June 30, 2014, or the prevalence of FAS published from Nov 1, 1973, to June 30, 2015, in a peer-reviewed journal or scholarly report. Each study on the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy was critically appraised using a checklist for observational studies, and each study on the prevalence of FAS was critically appraised by use of a method specifically designed for systematic reviews addressing questions of prevalence. Studies on the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and/or FAS were omitted if they used a sample population not generalisable to the general population of the respective country, reported a pooled estimate by combining several studies, or were published in iteration. Studies that excluded abstainers were also omitted for the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy. We then did country-specific random-effects meta-analyses to estimate the pooled prevalence of these indicators. For countries with one or no empirical studies, we predicted prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy using fractional response regression modelling and prevalence of FAS using a quotient of the average number of women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy per one case of FAS. We used Monte Carlo simulations to derive confidence intervals for the country-specific point estimates of the prevalence of FAS. We estimated WHO regional and global averages of the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and FAS, weighted by the number of livebirths per country. The review protocols for the prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy (CRD42016033835) and FAS (CRD42016033837) are available on PROSPERO.

FINDINGS: Of 23 470 studies identified for the prevalence of alcohol use, 328 studies were retained for systematic review and meta-analysis; the search strategy for the prevalence of FAS yielded 11 110 studies, of which 62 were used in our analysis. The global prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy was estimated to be 9.8% (95% CI 8.9-11.1) and the estimated prevalence of FAS in the general population was 14.6 per 10 000 people (95% CI 9.4-23.3). We also estimated that one in every 67 women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy would deliver a child with FAS, which translates to about 119 000 children born with FAS in the world every year.

INTERPRETATION: Alcohol use during pregnancy is common in many countries and as such, FAS is a relatively prevalent alcohol-related birth defect. More effective prevention strategies targeting alcohol use during pregnancy and surveillance of FAS are urgently needed.

FUNDING: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (no external funding was sought).

Published in Pregnant Women

Since the original Comparative Risk Assessment (CRA) for alcohol consumption as part of the Global Burden of Disease Study for 1990, there had been regular updates of CRAs for alcohol from the World Health Organization and/or the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. These studies have become more and more refined with respect to establishing causality between dimensions of alcohol consumption and different disease and mortality (cause of death) outcomes, refining risk relations, and improving the methodology for estimating exposure and alcohol-attributable burden. The present review will give an overview on the main results of the CRAs with respect to alcohol consumption as a risk factor, sketch out new trends and developments, and draw implications for future research and policy.

Published in General Health

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