Fetal alcohol spectrum resources

The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome-UK (NOFAS-UK) has launched new materials designed to increase awareness about the risk of prenatal exposure to alcohol. The new materials include posters and a pre-release version of a booklet, which explains how to identify possible cases of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

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How the alcohol industry mislead the public about alcohol and cancer

Alcohol consumption increases the risk of several types of cancer, including several common cancers | Drug and Alcohol Review

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As part of their corporate social responsibility activities, the alcohol industry (AI) disseminates information about alcohol and cancer. We examined the information on this which the AI disseminates to the public through its ‘social aspects and public relations organizations’ and related bodies. The aim of the study was to determine its comprehensiveness and accuracy.

Most of the organisations were found to disseminate misrepresentations of the evidence about the association between alcohol and cancer. Three main industry strategies were identified:

  1.  denial/omission: denying, omitting or disputing the evidence that alcohol consumption increases cancer risk.
  2. distortion: mentioning cancer, but misrepresenting the risk.
  3. distraction: focussing discussion away from the independent effects of alcohol on common cancers. Breast cancer and colorectal cancer appeared to be a particular focus for this misrepresentation.

Full reference: Petticrew, M. et al. (2017) How alcohol industry organisations mislead the public about alcohol and cancer. Drug and Alcohol Review. Published online: 7 Septmeber 2017

Alcohol: applying All Our Health

Evidence and guidance to help healthcare professionals reduce alcohol-related harm | Public Health England

Public Health England have updated their evidence and guidance pages to reflect the correct number of adults drinking at levels that pose risk to their health.

Alcohol-related harm is a major health problem. Reducing alcohol-related harm is one of the key indicators in health improvement.

31% of men and 16% of women in England drink alcohol in a way that presents increasing risk or potential harm to their health and wellbeing. This proportion is higher for the 15 to 64 age group.  The Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 revealed that, in England, alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for early death, ill health and disability for those aged 15 to 49 years. For all ages it is the fifth most important.

Up to 17 million working days are lost annually through absences caused by drinking; up to 20 million are lost through loss of employment or reduced employment opportunities.

Public Health England’s alcohol learning resources provides online resources and learning for commissioners, planners and practitioners working to reduce alcohol-related harm.

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Image source: http://www.gov.uk

Read more at Public Health England

Expert reaction to study looking at drinking alcohol and risk of diabetes

In new research published in Diabetologia scientists report that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3-4 days per week is associated with the lowest risk of diabetes | Science Media Centre

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Dr Graham Wheeler, Bayesian Medical Statistician, UCL, said:

“Whilst this large study has found an association between moderate weekly alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of diabetes, this alone does not prove a causal link.

“Establishing a biological mechanism for how this protective effect might work is key to understanding the findings of these types of study.

“In the Danish study, participants were asked to recall drinking habits only once.  So participants may under- or over-report their true alcohol consumption.  We also don’t know how their drinking habits changed as they were followed up.

“Researchers looked at the association between diabetes onset and lots of different categories of drinking behaviour, which increases the chance of claiming at least one association is statistically significant, when actually it isn’t.

“Whilst drinkers may want to raise a glass upon hearing this news, alcohol has been linked to the increased risk of alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and several cancers.  Further research will help us piece together the complex relationship between alcohol consumption and diabetes.”

Read the full analysis here

The effect of moderate drinking on brain structure

A new study on BMJ.com, examines the effect of moderate drinking on brain structure. Heavy drinking is known to have a deleterious effect on our brains, and is linked to dementias. However, for sometime it’s been thought that moderate drinking is actually protective.

In this Podcast, Anya Topiwala, clinical lecturer in old age psychiatry at the University of Oxford, discusses the association between alcohol consumption and those structural elements.

Reference to the research: Topiwala, A et al. Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study. BMJ 2017; 357 (Published 06 June 2017)

Alcohol abstention advice to pregnant women is wrong, say campaigners

Health officials and experts are wrong to tell women that they should completely abstain from drinking alcohol during pregnancy, according to campaigners | OnMedica

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Telling women that small quantities of alcohol in pregnancy can cause irreparable damage to a developing foetus has no basis in evidence and can cause needless anxiety, claimed academics and women’s advocates speaking at a conference in Canterbury, Kent.

The conference, Policing pregnancy: who should be a mother?, is a collaboration between the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) charity, the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS), maternal rights campaign group Birthrights, and engaging sociology.

Currently, pregnant women are warned that even light alcohol consumption can cause problems for them and long-term harm to their foetus, such as stunted growth, and eventual learning difficulties and behavioural problems. Warnings also include the possibility of liver damage to the baby and increased risk of the mother having a miscarriage.

Read the full overview here

Related news article by the Guardian available here

Alcohol identification and intervention in English emergency departments

Patton, R. & Green, G. Emergency Medicine Journal | Published Online: 8 May 2017

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Aims: In the ED, alcohol identification and brief advice is an effective method of reducing consumption and related harms. Our objective was to conduct a national survey of English EDs to determine current practice regarding alcohol identification and provision of brief advice and to compare changes in activity to a previous National Survey conducted in 2011.

Conclusion: Alcohol screening together with referral or intervention is becoming part of routine practice in England. Compared with our previous national survey, increases in alcohol screening and intervention activity are demonstrated, with improvements in routine questioning (among adults), the number of general practitioners being informed about alcohol-related attendances, provision of training, access to specialist services and the use of formal screening tools.

Read the full article here