The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Heart Foundation alcohol claims are misleading: NZABC

The New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) says statements by the Heart Foundation that there is “no safe level” of drinking beer, wine or spirits is misleading.

“The statements released by the Heart Foundation fly in the face of over 40 years of independent scientific research,” says NZABC Executive Director Virginia Nicholls

“For adults who choose to drink, this sweeping statement doesn’t provide them with guidance on individual health risks in the context of everyday life.”

Nicholls says hundreds of peer-reviewed studies since the 1970s have reported that light and moderate drinkers tend to live at least as long, or longer, than non-drinkers.

“Recent studies show this relationship holds even when separating former drinkers, from lifetime abstainers.”

She says everyone must evaluate the risks they face each day to inform their personal choices, and anyone with questions should speak to their healthcare professionals to better understand the impact of drinking on their individual health.

“Claiming that any level of drinking for anyone, however low, is harmful defies common sense for the 81% of adults who choose to drink beer, wine and spirits in moderation.

“Most adults who choose to drink do so in moderation, and for most adults, any risk posed by the moderate consumption of alcohol is low, although for some people the better choice may be not to drink at all”.

Nicholla also says the beer, wine and spirits industries refute claims by the Heart Foundation that low- and no-alcohol products are being used to reach young people and attract them to the category.

“A poll of 1,250 New Zealanders in December 2022 found 56% (up from 47% in the preceding year) of respondents drinking low-alcohol beverages at least some of the time, and some of us prefer low alcohol beverages,” she says.

“Research tells us that the vast majority of New Zealanders drink responsibly [and] harmful drinking – particularly among younger drinkers – has fallen.”

According to Nicholls, The Heart Foundation’s statement analysis is largely based on a report by the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse that was released in January – a study which attracted criticism at the time.

“There is a substantial amount of scientific evidence that is not cited in the Heart Foundation Position Statement,” she says.

“It is important to note that the heart foundations in the UK sand USA continue to reflect low-risk drinking guidelines issued by governments and do not take the ‘no safe level’ approach.”

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