“At the World Heart Federation, we decided it was imperative to talk about alcohol and health damage, as well as social and economic harm, because there is an impression in the general population, and even among professional healthcare professionals, that it’s good for the heart,” said Beatriz Champagne, chair of the advocacy committee that produced the report.
“That’s not the case, and the evidence is mounting that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption for health,” said Champagne, who is also executive director of InterAmerican. Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to the prevention of heart disease and stroke in the Americas.
Critics were quick to challenge the federation’s stance, saying it ignored studies that show a slight benefit for certain heart conditions when a moderate amount of alcohol is consumed.
“Some scientific studies support their title, but based on my work on the Global Burden of Disease study, which brings together all the evidence available to date, the WHF claim is not supported by the scientific evidence currently available,” says Gakidou.
In response to these criticisms, Champagne sent CNN the following reply:
“In short, our position is that studies showing a significant cardioprotective effect of alcohol consumption have largely been observational, inconsistent, funded by the alcohol industry, and/or not randomized controlled. Moreover, any potential cardioprotective effects are negated by the well-documented risks and harms, making our judgment that no amount of consumption can be considered good for heart health.”
The American Heart Association, which is a member of the federation, says ‘moderation is key’ when it comes to alcohol, which is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. .
Dr. Mariell Jessup, scientific and medical director of the AHA, told CNN in an email that the AHA will “carefully review” the WHF case. She said the AHA recently reviewed the evidence on alcohol and cardiovascular risk for its 2021 Dietary Guidance Scientific Statement, and “we concluded that if you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start not; and if you drink alcohol, limit the consumption”.
A vision of the world
The World Health Federation is a Geneva-based health advocacy organization that represents hundreds of cardiac associations around the world. He released the new policy brief, “The Impact of Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Health: Myths and Measurements,” to counter reports that certain alcohols are good or even good for heart health.
According to the report, alcohol consumption increases the risk of several cardiovascular problems, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke and aortic aneurysms. Any amount of alcohol, not just heavy drinking, can lead to the loss of a healthy life, he says.
“In recent decades, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease has nearly doubled, and alcohol has played a major role in the incidence of many of these,” the report says.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, disproportionately affecting people of low socioeconomic status. In 2019, nearly 2.4 million deaths – not just cardiac – could be attributed to alcohol, according to the report. Alcohol also has negative effects on mental health.
The World Health Organization has called for a relative reduction of 10% in per capita alcohol consumption between 2013 and 2030, but the report says a lack of investment in proven alcohol reduction strategies , in addition to industry misinformation, has impeded progress toward this goal.
“The portrayal of alcohol as necessary for a vibrant social life has diverted attention from the harms of alcohol consumption, as have frequent and widely publicized claims that moderate consumption, such as one glass of red wine a day , may offer protection against cardiovascular disease,” Monika Arora, WHF advocacy committee member and co-author of the brief, said in a press release. “These claims are at best misinformed and at worst an attempt by the alcohol industry to mislead the public about the danger of their product.”