Monday, 30 May 2016

What did I tell you?

I can’t say the news on the front page of today’s Times is exactly surprising, but it’s good to see it in such a prominent spot in a national newspaper.

The article itself is of course behind the dreaded Murdoch paywall here.

I have made some suggestions before about some more sensible official alcohol guidelines. And it’s important to stress that exceeding them doesn’t immediately tip you off a cliff of risk.

These so-called “limits” are unscientific bollocks. And the more people who say so, the better.


  1. Like you, I'm getting rather bored with refuting this nonsense. However, it has to be done, because silence will be taken as assent. I covered this most recently on my own blog here.

  2. You are not the target for these guidelines. It's a generational thing. The new market entrants thinking 14 units is the safe limit, much as my generation was taught 21 units. Its sticks in the mind as a guide regardless of whether it is followed.

    Codgers like you are a problem that will solve itself in time, the new puritanism is for the kids who already prefer iced coffee to booze.

    1. “Your generation was taught 21 units?” Come off it Cookie, you’ve surely been around a lot longer than that; and don’t you ever get tired of playing devil’s advocate?

    2. Nobody actually makes a point of carefully adhering to these guidelines. They're basically just used as a stick to beat us with.

      Many light drinkers would probably say. "A whole pint. Of Beer. Every Day! Yeuk!"

  3. Please be accurate. The fact that there were some anti alcohol lobbyists on the panel does not mean that they drew up the guidelines. There may have been many representatives of the drinks industry and several CAMRA members on it. Unlikely but possible

    1. I'm assuming your request for accuracy is directed at The Times - it's their splash headline. The article does say that the panel that drew up the guidelines contained anti-drink lobbyists so it's fair comment to say that they drew it up, obviously with other members of the panel.

  4. It's curious to demand accuracy, and then illustrate your demand by unsubstantiated speculation that you yourself describe as unlikely.

  5. There's a non-paywalled report here. I'm sure there were no CAMRA representatives on the panel, and would be very surprised if there were any industry representatives either.

  6. If you are deciding upon setting or amending a safe usage limit for a substance you know is potentially harmful in large doses then why would you have anyone but qualified medical doctors able to interpret the myriad of studies & evidence?

    What's the point of the none doctors?

  7. You would also need a social scientist, a statistician and an epidemiologist.

    And, to quote the great Friedrich A. Hayek, "There could hardly be a more unbearable - and more irrational - world than one in which the most eminent specialists in each field were allowed to proceed unchecked with the realisation of their ideals."

    Doctors may know a lot about medicine, but in general they have a poor understanding of human nature.

  8. If the question is basically, how much alcohol taken regularly can be deemed none dangerous for the larger population then it is a number based on medical evidence.

    I could see the role of none medical scientists in verifying the process and evidence. Your statistician and an epidemiologist there.

    But nevertheless you would expect a number based on a scientific process. One you might like or dislike. One that might be deemed worthy to advise the population with or not. A number you might choose to ignore, but many of us deem interesting enough to inform behaviour.

    A social scientist? what would they do? What would they contribute to the number?

    1. "If the question is basically, how much alcohol taken regularly can be deemed none dangerous for the larger population then it is a number based on medical evidence."

      But is that the question? Or is it "how much alcohol can be taken regularly without posing a statistically significant risk to health?"

      And there's an overwhelming weight of evidence that *some* alcohol is better for health outcomes than *none*.

      "A social scientist? what would they do? What would they contribute to the number?"

      They might be able to comment on the likelihood of the general population taking the advice seriously.

    2. do you think there should be a number though?

      Is your issue that you don't like the number because you think it's wrong or that you don't want to hear a number?

    3. Not against numbers as such, if only to make the point that drinking ten pints of Stella every night isn't really a good idea.

      But they need to be credible in the context of real-world consumption patterns, and recognise the genuine difference between male and female metabolisms.

      They also need to be presented as optimum guidelines, not hard-and-fast limits beyond which you fall off a cliff of risk.

  9. These are the members of the panel (taken from the government report):

    Guidelines Development Group
    Joint chairs
    Sally Macintyre, Professor Emeritus, University of Glasgow
    Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health Evaluation, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

    Mark Bellis, Director of policy, research and international development, Public Health Wales
    Chris Day, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Medical Sciences and Professor of Liver Medicine at Newcastle University
    Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance
    Gerard Hastings, University of Stirling, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing
    John Holmes, University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research (no longer a member after September 2014)
    Eileen Kaner, Professor of Public Health and Primary Care Research, Newcastle University
    Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health, NICE (retired from NICE and no longer a member of the group from the end of December 2014)
    Una Canning, NICE (after December 2014)
    David Leon, Professor of Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
    Theresa Marteau, Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit, University of Cambridge
    Vivienne Parry, freelance science journalist and broadcaster

    Additional experts consulted
    Colin Angus, University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research
    Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, Institute of Social Marketing, Stirling University
    Ron Gray, Director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit
    John Holmes, University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research (after ceasing to be a member of the group)
    Melanie Lovatt, University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research
    Petra Meier, University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research
    David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Cambridge University

    Interesting that the IAS membership wasn't listed for any of them. Well why should they? Surely it can't be relevant that panel members are also part of one of the most well known alcohol lobbying groups...


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