Taking a page right out of Big Tobacco’s playbook, five major beverage manufacturers are ponying up $67.7 million to prove that a glass of wine, beer or cocktail every day will increase one’s chances of avoiding a heart attack and live longer.
Yet, other research has begun surfacing to suggest that even modest alcohol consumption can lead to increases in breast cancer and changes in the brain. Holy conundrum, Batman!
So, the National Institutes of Health is stepping in to determine, once, and for all, if alcohol is good or bad. The total price tag for the multiple clinical trials? $100 million. So, that means Big Alcohol (or Big Al, as I like to call them) is funding two-thirds of the entire effort.
That’s like letting McDonald’s and Burger King pool their monies to prove there’s absolutely no link between their high calorie junk food and virtually every disease known to man.
Big Al’s serious investment is troubling to researchers who track influence-peddling in science (talk about a cool job!).
“Research shows that industry-sponsored research almost invariable favors the interests of the industry sponsor, even when investigators believe they are immune from such influence,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at NYU.
Needless to say Big Al’s lead spokesperson vehemently disagrees. George F. Koob, director of the Alcohol Institute (yet another way cool job) said the trial will be immune from industry influence and will be an unbiased test of whether alcohol “in moderation” protects against heart disease.
In case you’re interested (or, like me, want to volunteer) the study will recruit and follow nearly 8,000 volunteers age 50 or older at 16 sites around the world.
As was the case with Big Tobacco, Big Al may end up not liking the study’s results.
Imagine if every bottle of wine, IPA or Stoli suddenly contained the warning: “Drinking has been proven to cause numerous adverse ailments including shortness of breath, uncontrollable leg twitching, constipation, heart attack, stroke and death.” That might give the average consumer pause to think twice, unbend the elbow and exit the bar stage left.
Not me, though. No one’s keeping me away from my Sancerre at poolside. Uncontrollable leg twitching and research be damned.