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Plans to change alcohol guidelines ‘seriously flawed’

The science adviser to the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) has testified against plans to change the definition of ‘moderate drinking’, calling the proposal “seriously flawed”.

Discus has opposed plans to reduce the current guidelines surrounding ‘moderate drinking’

Dr Sam Zakhari, science adviser to Discus and a former division director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, testified during a virtual hearing yesterday (Tuesday 11 August).

The Dietary Guidelines have been in place in the US for 30 years and are updated every five years. If the proposed changes are approved, moderate drinking for men would be cut from two drinks per day to no more than one drink a day.

The hearing provided a chance for the public to comment on the recently released Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which includes a chapter on alcoholic beverages.

Zakhari, who has more than 40 years of experience studying alcohol and health, spent 26 years at the National Institutes of Health, most recently in the position of director of the division of basic research, and metabolism and health effects.

Zakhari said during the hearing: “The proposal to change the definition of moderate drinking is seriously flawed,” and added that it was “not supported by the preponderance of evidence” needed by the Dietary Guidelines Charter to change a guideline.

He also noted: “The preponderance of evidence shows that light to moderate alcohol consumption, as defined in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (up to two drinks a day for men and one for women), and in the absence of binge drinking, presents little health risk for most adults and is associated with reduced all-cause mortality.”

Zakhari ended his testimony by urging the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to keep the definition of moderate drinking included in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

He argued: “One study cannot change the preponderance of scientific evidence accumulated over more than 40 years and reaffirmed by Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees since 1990.”

The USDA and HHS will consider the committee’s scientific report, plus public and agency comments, as it works to develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines.

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