Can We Trust NIH?

I hate to ask that question, but I must because of Dr. Curtis Ellison, who was one of the stars of the French Paradox segment on "60 Minutes" man y decades ago.

He told the "Lifestyle, Diet, Wine & Health Congress," in Toledo, Spain, which had been organized by the Wine Information Council and FinVin, that smokers who drank moderately had only half the mortality of smokers who didn't.

“Now, all papers from the Framingham Study — which is funded by the National Institutes of Health as a special project — have to be approved,” he went on. “When this manuscript was sent to Washington to get approved, they got this response: ‘You are not to submit this manuscript. Refer to only the major risk factors and remove all references to alcohol’. This is political science at its worst.”

Many studies over the past half-century have shown that moderate drinkers have significant lower mortality, he said. So, why the persistence of the anti-alcohol sentiment.

Ellison's answer: Talking about potential health benefits means mixed message. So, it's just easier to say "don't drink." I believe Ellison hit the nail on the head. Two or three decades ago, I interviewed an official at the Health Resources & Services Administration. At the time, there was a debate over whether to lower the BAC level to 0.08 from 0.15%. HRSA was strongly advocating the 0.08% level, and publicly was suggesting it should be even lower. I reminded him of the many studies that show people who consume alcohol moderately live longer, with fewer health impacts.

His response: Of course, those studies are correct. But we know that people use whatever number we put out as a baseline and drink upward from that. So, it's easier and more effective to fight alcohol abuse by simply saying "Sciences says 0.08% is the upper limit of the safe zone when it comes to alcohol consumption."

As to alcohol causing cancer, Dr Justus Apffelstaedt, who formulated the breast screening policy for the National Department of Health of South Africa, and until 2017 was Head of the Surgical Oncology Service, University of Stellenbosch, only 4% of all the cancers in the world are caused by alcohol. and most of those by heavy drinking.

As to an often-presented Kaiser Infante Peermanente study of 1897 breast cancer survivors, half of whom conumed alcohol. That risk of recurrence was limited to obese and mostly post-menopausal women. “And if you drill down into the data, you actually see that the cardiovascular mortality was reduced in the wine drinkers in this particular study.”