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Another study to back up minimum alcohol prices
This might not make your happy hours more affordable, but research has found that increasing the price of alcohol and decreasing the amount of sellers could help reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths.
A new study from the American Public Health Association found that a mere 10 percent increase in minimum alcohol prices actually reduced booze consumption significantly in Saskatchewan, Canada. The town had raised its minimum alcohol prices by 10 percent from 2002 and 2009, and in those years, beer consumption dropped 10.06 percent, spirits like vodka and whiskey went down 5.87 percent, and wine went down 4.58 percent, the study found.
Even more importantly, however, the amount of deaths caused by alcohol between 2002 and 2009 in the western area of British Columbia did decrease by 32 percent, the study found. Similarly, when the amount of private businesses selling booze increased 10 percent, alcohol-related deaths increased 2 percent, Reuters reports.
"This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase," Tim Stockwell, who led the study, told Reuters. Which makes sense; the less accessible the alcohol, the less people will drink. We're not sure how a minimum alcohol price would affect the $15 cocktails of the world, but $1.75 PBRs may just be a thing of the past.
How smaller drinks could reduce the UK’s alcohol consumption
M any of us worry about our drinking and want to cut down, but finding the motivation and willpower to stick to it is hard. But what if we could change our environment so drinking less became the default? Making small changes to the environment to nudge people to behave a certain way (sometimes called choice architecture) can be effective, because a lot of our behaviour happens without conscious deliberations. In our research, we found that reducing the standard serving size of alcohol could do exactly that.
Portion sizes of food and alcohol glass sizes have increased over time and these increases have been linked with increased consumption at the population level. Experimental research shows that people eat more if they are served a larger portion of food and do not fully compensate for this by eating less later on. Conversely, reducing the portion size of food decreases how much people eat and people also don’t fully compensate for that. Based on this, we set out to experimentally test the effect of serving size on alcohol consumption. We expected that reducing the serving size of alcoholic drinks would reduce alcohol consumption.
We tested this prediction in two studies. In the first study, we invited participants to a lab that was made to look like a living room, to measure alcohol consumption in an environment where participants would feel comfortable consuming alcohol. We served half of the participants standard serving sizes of lager, cider or wine containing 2.1 units (roughly a can of beer/cider or a medium wine) and the other half were served serving sizes that were reduced by 25%. Participants could order as many drinks as they wanted whilst watching a hour-long TV programme. This enabled us to examine whether people who were served the small servings would order more drinks to compensate for the serving size reduction. Our results showed that participants who were served the reduced serving sizes of alcohol drank 20.7-22.3% less than participants who received the standard servings during the study.
It looked like reducing the serving size decreased alcohol consumption in the lab, but would this hold “in the wild”? We took our experiment to a local pub and ran four pub quiz nights during which we controlled the serving size of the drinks that attendees could buy. On two of the nights, the pub only sold standard servings of alcohol (pints, 175ml wine glasses) and on the other nights the pub only sold smaller servings (2/3 pints and 125ml wine glasses). There was no limit on the number of alcoholic drinks an individual could buy and prices were adjusted to ensure that value for money was the same on all nights. A team of experimenters posed as participants and unobtrusively recorded how much every attendee drank during the night. We found the same pattern of results as in the laboratory study: On nights that we served smaller servings, people drank 32.4-39.6% less than when we served standard servings. The next day, we asked attendees how much alcohol they drank after the quiz and found no differences in how much alcohol people drank later in the night after being serving standard or reduced servings.
“Of course people drink less if you give them less,” I hear you say. But we didn’t look at alcohol consumption from a single drink – we looked over the course of the entire drinking occasion. People were free to drink as many drinks as they wanted and had the opportunity to drink the same total amount in both conditions. In the pub quiz study, participants would have had to drink three smaller drinks to consume the same amount as two standard drinks. But people did not order more drinks to compensate for the reduced serving sizes, and as a result they drank less overall.
And there could be substantial health benefits too. We used our results in combination with the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model to estimate that reducing the standard serving size of beer, wine and cider in bars and restaurants by a quarter would lead to 1,400 fewer deaths and 73,000 fewer hospital admissions every year.
There are many possible reasons why people might not compensate for reduced servings. It could be that people have a set expectation of the number of drinks they will have, rather than a total volume they aim for in a drinking session. Or maybe they could not be bothered to make more trips to the bar. It is also possible that consuming smaller drinks reduces the amount that seems normal to drink.
It is important to find out why people do not seem to compensate, but this does not undermine the importance of the basic effect: if you want people to drink a bit less over a single drinking occasion without restricting the amount that they are allowed to consume, then reduce the serving size. The standard serving size of beer in UK is larger than in many other countries perhaps it is time to offer UK drinkers more options when it comes to buying smaller servings.
Dr Inge Kersbergen is a esearch associate in psychology at the University of Liverpool. Her research investigates how small changes to our immediate environment could be used to encourage healthier behaviour. She can be found on Twitter: @Inge_Kersbergen
The Key to Living Over the Age of 90 Might Be Drinking Alcohol
Francisco Núñez Olivera, one of the oldest people in the world, recently passed away at the ripe old age of 113. In his golden years, it was said he enjoyed a glass of red wine every single day. The man might have been onto something.
New research shows that somehow, someway, drinking alcohol over the age of 90 makes you less likely to die. To be exact, drinking two glasses of beer or wine a day improves your chances of living longer by 18 percent. What's more, it has a more positive effect on longevity in people over the age of 90 than exercising daily. Alcohol is good!
Not that exercising is bad for anyone in their 90+ years. The study results also showed that nonagenarians who exercised 15 to 45 minutes per day cut their risk of premature death by 11 percent. That's nothing to scoff at.
The study was performed by Dr. Claudia Kawas of the University of California, who researched more than 1,600 nonagenarians starting in 2003. &ldquoI have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity,&rdquo she said when she presented her findings this month, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Kawas' study also found that people over the age of 90 have a better shot at living longer if they were slightly overweight, but not obese. "It&rsquos not bad to be skinny when you&rsquore young, but it&rsquos very bad to be skinny when you&rsquore old,&rdquo she said.
So just keep kicking until 90. Getting fat (but not too fat) and drinking two glasses of beer or wine a day seems like a hell of a way to celebrate a century of life.
Try these alcohol-free mocktails
“As long as you’re healthy,” explained Cassetty, “it’s OK to have a drink a day for women or two for men.” TODAY asked Maddur to break down what one drink really looks like: "So no more than 5 ounces of wine, and no more than an ounce and a half of hard liquor. That’s also equivalent to 12 ounces of beer." Here are five ways to enjoy the occasional tipple — without overdoing it.
1. Set limits on how much you’re drinking
The serving size for a glass of wine is 5 ounces, says Cassetty. But if you’re using a large wine glass, you could be pouring much more than that. “So even if you’re sticking with one glass,” she says, “you might be having nearly two drinks.”
2. Limit sugary cocktails
“We’ve seen that people with underlying conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, are at greater risk for serious illness from COVID-19,” said Cassetty. “Excess added sugar in the diet has been linked with these conditions, along with other things, like inadequate sleep, which also impacts your immune functioning.” Keep it simple and opt for a spritz over cocktails made with sugary mixers or simple syrups.
3. Consider low- or no-alcohol drinks
Add lower ABV wines (12% or 13% max), spritzes and spirit-free cocktails into your drinks rotation. If you’re having trouble maintaining alcohol limits, said Cassetty, it may help to avoid activities that involve drinking (including mocktails, which mimic drinking), and focus on self-care strategies, like meditation or a hobby, instead.
4. Be careful about relaxing your own rules
“Increased use tends to begin with relaxing the typical ‘rules’ around alcohol,” said McClary. “The challenge is to be mindful of what the usual rules would’ve been, and to try to stick with them.” If you typically have a glass of wine with dinner, it makes sense to stick with that — don’t go for a second glass. Similarly, she says, “if you never would’ve previously considered drinking before 5 p.m., don't start now.”
5. Adjust your focus
Even if the cocktail you made is a masterpiece, the real focus of the evening, said McClary, should be on the people who are there with you and the personal connections you’re making. There are many downsides to the way the pandemic is affecting our lives. One upside, she says, is more time to reconnect with family and friends, whether remotely or in person. “We’ll all benefit from connecting with others.”
Kelly White hasn't had a drink since July — and now she's encouraging people to seek help if they have a problem. “I am proud of myself. I'm sober and I'm recovering … I really just enjoy life a lot more now,” she said.
If you’re struggling to cope with stress or worried about how much you're drinking, reach out to your doctor or a licensed therapist. Therapy can be a valuable tool for managing pandemic-related stress, but just as importantly, said Cassetty, “it’ll help you down the line, too.”
Jen Laskey is an award-winning health and lifestyle writer, editor and content strategist based in New York City.
Moderate Drinking And Your Cancer Risk
Get plenty of exercise, eat heaps of greens, and steer clear of cigarettes. To reduce your risk of cancer, those are three science-backed recommendations you probably do your best to follow. But what if experts added "cut out the wine" to that list?
As tough as it is to swallow, a major new report offers a potent reminder of the strong link between alcohol and cancer. In short: Alcohol is responsible for around one of every 30 cancer deaths that occurs in the US each year. And even a drink a day increases your risk.
The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, is the first in three decades to offer such a comprehensive analysis of alcohol-related cancer deaths on a national scale. A collaborative effort between experts at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), the National Cancer Institute, the Alcohol Research Group, and others, the study compiled data on rates of alcohol consumption and cancer mortality across hundreds of thousands of people. Experts then did some serious number crunching in an effort to determine the extent of alcohol's role in contributing to deaths from seven different types of cancer (including breast, colon, and liver).
Their conclusions, for anyone who enjoys a few drinks, are troubling. Alcohol is responsible for around 20,000 cancer deaths every year, or 3.5% of total cancer mortalities. And where breast cancer is concerned, alcohol accounts for 15% of all deaths.
Heavy drinkers face the biggest risk, but even low-key imbibers are increasing their odds of dying from cancer: The report found that those who consume 1.5 drinks a day or fewer account for 30% of all alcohol-related cancer deaths.
"The purpose of this study is not to stigmatize moderate drinking, and I apologize if this makes people feel bummed out," says lead study author Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher at BUSM. "But it is important for people to know that yes, alcohol is a carcinogen, and it does increase your risk. That's the bottom line."
As Dr. Naimi notes, alcohol has long been a known carcinogen, though its risks arguably haven't received the same widespread attention&mdashfrom researchers, health officials, or the public&mdashas factors like cigarettes or environmental toxins. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption has more recently been bestowed with something of a health halo, with research linking the habit to heart health, stronger bones, and even a longer lifespan. But such findings (many of them preliminary) don't outweigh the established risks, Dr. Naimi says. "There is no compelling research showing that low-dose alcohol consumption is a preventive or therapeutic measure," he says. "Alcohol causes far, far more deaths than it prevents."
For those who don't currently drink, Dr. Naimi recommends that they don't start "because of potential health benefits." And among those who do enjoy a drink or two? Do your best to cut down. "Drink less, plain and simple," he says.
No More Alcohol?
I’ve read conflicting information about the research concluding there’s no safe amount of alcohol. Is moderate drinking really harmful?
The report you refer to has received a lot of publicity – not surprising given its conclusion that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. Strictly speaking, that may be true – the researchers determined (after analyzing 694 sources of data on alcohol consumption from 195 countries, in addition to 592 studies of the health risks drinking poses) that the more alcohol you consume, the higher the risks to health. That’s not a very controversial finding, but results also showed that even one daily drink could be harmful. While the risk is extremely small, it isn’t zero. The only way to avoid it would be not to drink at all.
Overall, the researchers found that per 100,000 people, one drink a day over the course of a year poses a very small increased risk of alcohol-related health problems. For every 100,000 people who don’t drink alcohol, 914 can expect to develop one of the 23 health problems investigated. For those who have one drink daily, the health risk rises – slightly – to 918 per 100,000 people. It jumps to 977 per 100,000 for those who have two drinks per day. The 23 health problems include suicide, tuberculosis, liver cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease and eight different types of cancer, as well as transportation-related injuries and other accidents.
While the risks posed by a daily drink or two are small, there is no question of the toll alcohol takes in human life. The investigation found that in 2016 it was involved in nearly three million deaths worldwide and that overall among people between the ages of 15 and 49, consuming alcohol was the most common risk factor for death and disability.
The researchers reported that in 2016, 25 percent of women and 39 percent of men were drinkers – that adds up to about 2.4 billion people worldwide. Women consumed an average of 0.73 drinks a day, while men had 1.7. The research also showed that while rates of alcohol consumption vary widely by country, in general the higher a country’s income level, the greater the prevalence of drinking.
The research was observational in nature – that is, the investigators reviewed information that already had been gathered to elicit the risks of 23 health problems linked to drinking alcohol. But because of the nature of the studies analyzed the researchers were unable to explore factors other than alcohol that could have affected the health outcomes, such as smoking or poverty.
This was the second large analysis of alcohol consumption published in 2018. The earlier one, from the UK’s University of Cambridge, concluded that more than one drink a day may be too much. Worse, exceeding recommended UK limits of five to six pints of beer or six to seven glasses of wine per week, regardless of whether you’re male or female, was linked to a 14 percent higher risk of stroke, a nine percent higher risk of heart failure, a 24 percent higher risk of fatal hypertensive disease, and a 15 percent higher risk of fatal aortic aneurysm. The report also found reduced life expectancy of one to two years for a 40-year old who has 10 or more drinks per week and a loss of four to five years for those who imbibe 18 or more drinks weekly.
In my view, the best way to protect yourself from the hazards of alcohol is not to use it every day. People who drink wine with dinner every night, or have a beer every day, or a daily mixed drink or two after work should try, instead, to give themselves two or three alcohol-free days a week.
GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. “Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.” The Lancet, August 23, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2
5. Appeal Denied Charges
Estimates vary widely across reporting agencies, but denied claims seem to represent about 5% to 10% of all claims. A denied claim can cost you lots of money as you may be responsible for the entire bill. Review a denied claim with your insurer to get clear information about the reason for denial. Experts suggest that as many as 90% of these claim denials are due to simple errors such as missing required information or improper coding by the provider. Many of these will be paid upon correction and resubmission.
If you are unsatisfied with the response from your insurer's customer service center, file an appeal following the process outlined in your Explanation of Benefits letter. Have your treatment provider send a letter justifying the treatment and offering any supporting medical history. Be prepared to remain persistent if your request is denied again, and escalate the complaint to the appropriate state agency.
Lower the Risk of Dying from Cancer with Fruits and Veggies
Five fruits and veggies a day are good, ten might be better. At least when it comes living longer, and not dying from cancer, heart disease and stroke, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
If everyone were to eat 10 fruits and vegetables a day, that could prevent an estimated 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide, the authors calculate.
This study was an analysis of the global research, including 95 studies and over 2 million people.
The researchers found that even just two to three portions of fruits and vegetables a day – 200 grams – reduced risk of disease and premature death to some degree compared to those who ate none. This amount reduced dying from any cancer or for any reason by 3 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
One serving of fruit or vegetable was defined as 80 grams.
Eating more linked to living even longer. The greater reduction in mortality was seen among the group that ate 10 servings for staving off cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke. Compared to not eating any fruits and vegetables, eating 800 grams lowered risk of dying from these diseases from 24 to 33 percent.
For cancer, reduced risks were seen up to about 7.5 fruits and vegetables a day (600 grams), with a 13 percent lower risk of dying from any cancer.
When analyzing specific types, the greatest risk reduction from cancer mortality linked to cruciferous vegetables and green-yellow vegetables.
Overall, most of the reduction in risk was steeper at the lower range of fruit and vegetable intake.
That’s good news for Americans given that the vast majority of adults are not even eating the recommended amount: about 1.5 cups of fruit and 2–3 cups of vegetables daily. The serving size of 80 grams in this study is equal to any of the following: a large carrot, 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, 1/2 small piece of fruit or 1 1/2 -2 cups lettuce. You could get to the 10 servings in one day by including 1 orange at breakfast, a carrot and apple at lunch, a large banana at snack and cooked broccoli and a large salad with tomatoes at dinner.
The findings in this research show a link, not necessarily proving the fruits and vegetables caused the lower mortality. There are other possible reasons for the link, such as lifestyle factors more common to individuals who eat a lot of produce. Fruit and vegetable lovers are less likely to smoke, and be overweight. They are also more likely to be active and drink less alcohol. And all of that can play a role in cancer and other disease risk. (Many studies — but not all – did adjust for being overweight. And the researchers found that these links still held after accounting for several of these other factors.)
And not all previous studies have found such strong links, but one strength of this study is its large size.
When it comes to lower risk of developing cancer — as opposed to lowering cancer mortality — here at AICR we’re big fans of fruits and vegetables of all types and colors. These foods are packed with a variety of nutrients and phytochemicals well studied for their link to lowering cancer risk. They also can help with weight management, and that has a major role in lowering risk for many cancers.
For more information on specific fruits and veggies, see our Foods that Fight Cancer section.
This study was funded by Olav og Gerd Meidel Raagholt’s Stiftelse for Medisinsk Forskning, the Liaison Committee between the Central Norway Regional Health Authority (RHA) and theNorwegian University of Science and Technology, and the Imperial College National Institute of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre.
The American Institute for Cancer Research helps the public understand the relationship between lifestyle, nutrition and cancer risk. We work to prevent cancer through innovative research, community programs and impactful public health initiatives.
Cooked Tomatoes can Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Dr. Gary Fraser is a professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Loma Linda University Health, and the former primary director of the Adventist Health Study a prospective cohort study of approximately 96,000 Seventh-day Adventist men and women in the United States and Canada. Below, he outlines some of his latest research funded by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) on the link between tomatoes and prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer worldwide. In the United States alone, there were an estimated 165,000 new cases of prostate cancer and nearly 30,000 deaths in 2018 alone. Since 1989, a research team at Loma Linda University Health has examined a number of dietary practices to see which offer promise in preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Earlier research in the Adventist Health Study and several other projects internationally suggest high lycopene intake is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer. Tomato and tomato-based products are of particular interest since they are major sources of the carotenoid, lycopene.
Seventh-day Adventists are a protestant denomination that is well-known for encouraging members to adopt healthy lifestyle practices. Loma Linda University Health is conducting what is widely recognized as the largest ongoing research of Adventists’ dietary choices and healthy living habits. To examine how tomato consumption might impact the development of prostate cancer, we looked for significant relationships between diet and prostate cancer in nearly 28,000 Adventist men in the United States.
How our research was done
All Adventist Health Study participants agreed to fill out self-administered food frequency questionnaires reporting the average number of times per week they ate approximately 200 different foods and beverages, and the serving sizes. After tracking the study’s male participants, all of whom were cancer-free when they enrolled in the project, we found that 1,226 of them had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and 355 of those were aggressive cases.
As we focused on dietary lycopene levels, we found that men who consumed canned and cooked tomatoes five to six times a week had a 28 percent decreased risk of prostate cancer compared with men who never consumed this food. The effect was still significant even after adjusting for a number of potential confounders, including ethnicity, education, obesity, exercise levels, alcohol consumption and others. Interestingly, we found no significant association between prostate cancer and consumption of raw tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato sauce and tomato-based vegetable juice.
While all tomatoes and tomato-based products contain lycopene, other studies have shown that lycopene is absorbed at different rates depending on the product consumed. Lycopene bioavailability is higher when tomatoes have been heated or cooked, and especially if cooked with oil. Processing tomatoes in this way contributes to the separation of the lycopene from the carrier proteins.
Our conclusion for cancer prevention
This research suggests that it is particularly cooked tomatoes that may play a significant role in reducing a man’s risk for developing prostate cancer. It may be their lycopene content that is the active principle. We will continue to look at various tomato products and their potential to reduce prostate cancer risk. Still, men concerned about developing prostate cancer could consider adding cooked and canned tomatoes to their diet on a regular basis.
More information on Dr. Fraser’s WCRF-funded work can be found here.
The American Institute for Cancer Research helps the public understand the relationship between lifestyle, nutrition and cancer risk. We work to prevent cancer through innovative research, community programs and impactful public health initiatives.
How Heavy Drinking Might Boost Your Appetite for Alcohol
MONDAY, Feb. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Binge and heavy drinking may trigger DNA changes that make your booze cravings worse, a new study says.
"We found that people who drink heavily may be changing their DNA in a way that makes them crave alcohol even more," said senior study author Dipak Sarkar. He directs the endocrine program in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
Sarkar and his team focused on two genes that play a role in controlling drinking: PER2, which influences the body's biological clock, and POMC, which regulates the stress-response system.
The researchers found that in binge and heavy drinkers, the two genes had changes caused by an alcohol-influenced gene modification process called methylation.
The binge and heavy drinkers also had reductions in gene expression, which is the rate at which the two genes create proteins.
These changes in the two genes increased with alcohol intake, according to the study.
The researchers also found that the alcohol-triggered changes in the two genes of binge and heavy drinkers were associated with a greater craving for alcohol.
"This may help explain why alcoholism is such a powerful addiction, and may one day contribute to new ways to treat alcoholism or help prevent at-risk people from becoming addicted," Sarkar said in a Rutgers news release.
The findings may also help researchers identify proteins or genes that could predict a person's risk for binge or heavy drinking," Sarkar added.
There were more than 3 million alcohol-related deaths worldwide in 2016, which was 5 percent of all deaths globally, according to the World Health Organization. Harmful use of alcohol was also linked with about 5 percent of disease and injuries worldwide.
The study was published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
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