The World Heart Federation has released a policy brief establishing that no amount of alcohol is good for the heart. The brief calls for urgent and decisive action to tackle the unprecedented rise in alcohol-related death and disability worldwide.
The portrayal of alcohol as necessary for a vibrant social life has diverted attention from the harms of alcohol use, as have the frequent and widely publicised claims that moderate [alcohol use], such as a glass of red wine a day, can offer protection against cardiovascular disease,” said Monika Arora, Member of the WHF Advocacy Committee and co-author of the brief, as per WHF website.
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.”Monika Arora, member of the WHF Advocacy Committee, co-author of the brief
Alcohol products harm overall health
- In 2019, more than 2.4 million people died because of alcohol.
- This accounts for 4.3% of all deaths globally and 12.6% of deaths in men aged 15 to 49.
- Alcohol use is a major preventable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancer, digestive diseases, and intentional and unintentional injuries, and for several infectious diseases.
Alcohol products harm the heart
The studies included in the brief show that even small amounts of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, including:
- Coronary disease,
- Heart failure,
- Hypertensive heart disease,
- Atrial fibrillation, and
Studies which show that low doses of alcohol use is good for the heart have largely been observational research, which fails to account for other factors, such as pre-existing conditions and a history of alcoholism in those considered to be “abstinent”, these studies have inconsistent results and/or have been funded by the alcohol industry which has a clear conflict of interest.
The policy brief further points out the heavy social and economic burden caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry. These include motor vehicle accidents, injuries, family problems, and cost to health systems, burden on criminal justice system, out of pocket expenditure and productivity losses.
People of lower socio economic backgrounds and from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are disporportiantely burdened by the harms of alcohol products compared to people with higher socio economic backgrounds and high income countries; even with same or lower levels of alcohol use.
Alcohol policy solutions and need for advocacy
The policy brief highlights the World Health Organization’s alcohol policy Best Buys which are included in the WHO SAFER technical package. Governments aiming to reduce the harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry can use this alcohol policy blue print.
The SAFER package includes following policy solutions:
- Strengthen restrictions on alcohol availability
- Advance and enforce drink driving countermeasures
- Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions, and treatment
- Enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion
- Raise prices on alcohol through excise taxes and other fiscal policies.
The policy brief further provides reocmmendations for advocacy for national heart health societies and organizations calling on them to advocate for improved alcohol policy development.
For further reading
Download the full policy brief here.
World Heart Federation: “NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL IS GOOD FOR THE HEART, SAYS WORLD HEART FEDERATION“