Hot on the heels of removing two Harvard scientists due to financial conflicts of interest, the national organization that formed a committee to assess the evidence about alcohol drinking and health has chosen four new panelists, among them a Harvard graduate. And there are professors who also have financial ties to the liquor industry.
The committee, under the auspices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, will be tasked with updating the federal government’s dietary guidelines, which advise Americans on nutrition and diet, including how much they should or should not drink.
Scientists at universities across North America study the health effects of alcohol, and many do not acknowledge industry funding. Critics said the National Academies instead chose two Harvard colleagues who have published research strongly suggesting that drinking alcohol in moderation is good for you.
“How can they appoint someone with a history of alcohol funding after removing the other two because of alcohol funding?” Dr. Michael B., professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. Seagal said. Dr. Siegel has been a longtime critic of industry-funded research on alcohol.
Many of the other 12 provisional members of the committee are experts in biostatistics and data analysis whose research is not primarily focused on alcohol and health. (One study looked at the effects of alcohol on prenatal health.) Thus, the Harvard researchers likely had influence on the committee, Dr. Siegel said.
Although it is undisputed that drinking heavy amounts of alcohol is harmful to your health, some studies have found cardiovascular benefits from drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. But in recent years critics have questioned the methodology used in some of these studies, many of which were conducted by scientists who have received financial support from groups funded by the alcohol industry.
The World Heart Federation had issued a report last year saying this Even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risk Cancer, injury and heart disease, including coronary disease, stroke and heart failure.
In 2020, when the US dietary guidelines were last updated, the government rejected the advice of its scientific advisers to recommend less alcohol consumption. Guidelines now recommend one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
“There used to be a general consensus that drinking alcohol in moderation had health benefits. There’s no longer a consensus — there’s a controversy, said Tim Stockwell, a scientist at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, whose own work disputes the notion that there are benefits to drinking alcohol in moderation.
He said, “But if there is a dispute, call an expert from each side.” Several organizations and individuals had suggested Mr. Stockwell’s name for the committee, but he said he was never contacted.
Canadian health officials last year overhauled their guidelines for alcohol consumption, saying no level of alcohol drinking is healthy and urging people to reduce it as much as possible.
“I think they’re worried that the U.S. dietary guidelines will follow Canada’s,” Dr. Stockwell said of the industry.
The four new nominees also include Dr. Luke Dause, an associate professor at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, who has studied the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on heart disease.
While he has also received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for his work is funded by the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research Foundation, an industry group. He was a featured speaker recently Beer and Health Seminar Imposed by beer manufacturers.
Dr. Dowse is also a member of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, an organization that was once linked to the alcohol industry, and has signed an agreement. A letter written by the organization that was published in a medical journal, The group says it no longer receives money from the alcohol industry.
He has co-authored several papers with Dr. Kenneth Mukamal and Dr. Eric Rimm, Harvard researchers whose nominations were removed from consideration last month.
Dr. Dowse did not respond to requests for comment; Neither did Todd Datz, chief communications officer at the TH Chan School of Public Health.
Dana Corsen, director of media relations at the National Academies, said the committee roster will remain provisional through a public comment period that ends Thursday. The first meeting of the committee is to be held the next day.
Ms. Corsen did not directly respond to questions about the alcohol industry’s funding of Dr. Ducey. “Like all study committees, the first meeting will include a discussion of compliance with our policies for conflicts of interest and disclosure,” he said in an email.
He declined to reveal the names of National Academies officials directly involved in the nomination and declined requests for interviews with them.
The lack of transparency “raises the question whether the National Academies have once again found themselves co-opted,” said Dianne Riebe, who co-founded the US Alcohol Policy Alliance, which translates alcohol policy research into public health practice. Is.
Dr. Dowse has co-authored several papers on moderate alcohol consumption and its purported benefits with Dr. Mukamal, who led a $100 million clinical trial on moderate alcohol drinking aimed at addressing questions about its benefits or harms. had to be resolved.
In 2018, the National Institutes of Health canceled the trial after The New York Times reported that Dr. Mukamal and officials at NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism accepted $68 million from alcohol and beer manufacturers to underwrite the research. Which was a contradiction. Violations of interest and federal policy.
“Jouse is a close collaborator of Dr. Mukamal,” Dr. Siegel wrote in a recent blog post. “Having him on the panel is the next best thing to having Dr. Mukamal himself.”
The other Harvard nominee is Dr. Carlos Camargo, a professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology who has also studied moderate alcohol consumption and was chair of the alcohol committee for the 2005 USDA dietary guidelines.
He has also written several research papers in collaboration with Dr. Mukamal on the benefits of drinking light alcohol. He declined a request for comment, referring a reporter to the National Academies.
The two other new nominees are Dr. Bruce N., associate dean of public health practice at the Colorado School of Public Health and chief medical officer for the Colorado State Department of Public Health and Environment. Calonge, who was temporarily elected head of the committee; and Linda Snetselaar, professor of epidemiology and director of the Nutrition Center at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and editor in chief of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
a member of The public has until the end of the day Thursday to comment On nomination. Ms. Corsen of the National Academies did not respond to questions about how the organization would review the public comments that came less than 24 hours before the committee’s first meeting.
The committee’s task is to review the cumulative evidence about the relationship between alcohol drinking and a number of health problems, including obesity, cancer, heart disease, cognitive health, and death from all causes.
It will also examine the effects of drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, including effects on postpartum weight loss, milk composition and quantity, and infant development.
Although drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, especially red wine, has long been shown to be healthy, in recent years more rigorous research and concerns about industry funding have cast doubt.
Even light drinking may slightly increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer as well as a common type of esophageal cancer. Heavy drinking significantly increases the risk of mouth and throat cancer, voice box cancer, liver cancer, and to a lesser extent, colorectal cancer.
The National Academies have never been involved in updating the dietary guidelines, but $1.3 million was allocated by Congress for this work. Dr Siegel has now called for an investigation into the composition of the panel as researchers linked to the industry have been nominated twice.