by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Alcohol

Jul 16 2020

Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee releases report

The report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is now available in online preprint.

It sets a record at 835 pages.

Its conclusions are highly consistent with those of previous Dietary Guidelines.

It recommends eating more of these foods:

Common characteristics of dietary patterns associated with positive health outcomes include higher intake of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, low- or nonfat dairy, lean meat and poultry, seafood, nuts, and unsaturated vegetable oils.

It recommends eating less of these foods:

The Committee found that negative (detrimental) health outcomes were associated with dietary patterns characterized by higher intake of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and refined grains.

It retained the recommendation: Eat less red and processed meats

It retained the recommendation to eat less saturated fat (replace with polyunsaturated or monounsaturated)

Thus, the Committee recommends that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake be as low as possible within a healthy dietary pattern, and that saturated fat intake be limited to less than of 10 percent of total energy intake, as recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This recommendation applies to adults and children ages 2 years and older.

It tightened up restrictions on alcoholic beverages from 2 drinks a day for men to 1 drink:

The Committee concluded that no evidence exists to relax current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, and there is evidence to tighten them for men such that recommended limits for both men and women who drink would be 1 drink per day on days when alcohol is consumed.

It tightened up restrictions on added sugars, from 10% of calories to 6%:

After considering the scientific evidence for the potential health impacts of added sugars intake, along with findings from model-based estimations of energy available in the dietary pattern after meeting nutrient requirements, the Committee suggests that less than 6 percent of energy from added sugars is more consistent with a dietary pattern that is nutritionally adequate while avoiding excess energy intake from added sugars than is a pattern with less than 10 percent energy from added sugars.

What’s missing?

  • Salt: The report says remarkably little about sodium beyond that it is overconsumed and people should “reduce sodium intake.”  It’s possible that I missed it, but I could not find suggestions for quantitative limits.
  • Ultraprocessed: The word does not appear in the report except in the references.  A large body of evidence supports an association of ultraprocessed foods to poor health.  If the committee considered this evidence, it did not spell it out explicitly.
  • Sustainability: This was off the table from the beginning but this committee recommends that it be considered next time in the context of a food systems approach to the Dietary Guidelines (p.771).

Comment

This is an impressive, solid, conservative review of the existing science highly consistent with previous Dietary Guidelines but with mostly stronger recommendations.

This committee was up against:

  • A tight time frame
  • A first-time mandate to review literature on infancy, pregnancy, and lactation in addition to that for adults
  • A first-time process in which the agencies set the research agenda, not the committee
  • The Coronavirus pandemic

At the outset, I was concerned that the committee members might be heavily biased in favor of food industry interests.  If they were, such biases do not show up in the final report.  I think this committee deserves much praise for producing a report of this quality under these circumstances.

Want to weigh in on it? 

The agencies are taking public comments until August 13.  On August 11, there will be an online public meeting for even more comments.

What’s next?

This report is advisory, only.  USDA and HHS must boil this down to the actual 2020 Dietary Guidelines.  Whereas the committee process was transparent, the boiling down process is highly secretive, or was in 2015.  It will be interesting to see what the agencies do, especially given the heavy lobbying by proponents of meat, saturated fat, and low-carbohydrate diets.

Jun 17 2020

The effects of Covid-19 on the alcohol industry

I know this is a burning question:

Has coronavirus changed how much alcohol Americans are drinking?  New research looks at what impact stay-at-home orders and conditions during the COVID-19 crisis have had on American alcohol consumption.

The survey, which included 1,000 American adults and was carried out by APCO Insight, showed 35% of Americans are drinking about the same despite stay-at-home orders and 28% are drinking less. This includes 11% who say they have stopped drinking entirely.

Not being able to go out and bars and restaurants being closed are the top two reasons for drinking less, with 38% and 33% of respondents citing these factors respectively.

This last is bad news for the alcohol industry, which expects beverage alcohol to take five years to rebound from the coronavirus.

Total global alcohol consumption, boosted by increases in beer and RTD [ready to drink] products, grew by +0.1% in volume and +3.6% in value in 2019. But the near complete shutdown of bars and restaurants across the world for several months this year has set the category back dramatically.  While there has been an uptick in liquor retail and ecommerce, this has not been enough to offset the losses in the on-trade….this will lead to double-digit declines in 2020, which will take until 2024 to recover to 2019 pre-Covid-19 levels. In the US and UK, this is likely to take even longer.

Will there be fewer auto accidents, less domestic violence, and reductions in other alcohol-related problems?  The data should be coming in soon.

Addition, June 21

Several readers wrote to complain that I did not give enough information about these articles.  In particular, David Jernigan, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, said there is a lot as yet unknown about alcohol consumption right now,

But the source I would not go to is responsibility.org – they are a wholly owned unit of the Distilled Spirits Council of the Untied States (DISCUS), one of the leading alcohol industry trade groups…from the coverage of it in your blog and the link to the story on it in BeverageDaily.com, there are some obvious problems with their findings:

First, it looks like they asked people “do you drink responsibly?” as opposed to objective measures. There are much better ways to measure drinking behavior and I would not expect reliable findings from such a vague question.

Second, even their survey finds that prevalence of drinking has increased – up from 71% in the past month last year to 79% in the past month in the same period this year.

Finally, the article on this in BeverageDaily.com, to the author’s credit, asks and reports on how the survey figures match up with sales figures. The answer is they don’t. Off-premise sales are generally about 75% of sales volume. IRI reports that retail alcohol sales in the US “remain elevated” through 13 May, when they were up 34.2% compared to the same period last year. Only frozen foods have performed comparably. Nielsen figures say the same thing – total alcohol sales up 16% during the overall lockdown period compared with 2019. Spirits has been the biggest winner (up 27.4%), which suggests that people are maximizing purchases for alcohol content.

On-premise sales per outlet are down 68%. If you do the math between the two sectors, this adds up to about an 8.5% increase in sales overall. Add to this that people are most likely buying more for cheaper (more 24-packs of beer and boxed wine, according to Nielsen, in addition to spirits, the category with the highest alcohol content, seeing the largest sustained increase), and it starts to give a more accurate picture than DISCUS’s survey.

We won’t know for sure what has happened until the more accurate public health surveys come back from the field. However, as of early April, 18 of 22 police departments asked by NBC News about domestic violence calls indicated they were up substantially – a canary in the coal mine?

I am grateful to professor Jernigan for taking the trouble to write and even more for providing this information.  The alcohol industry has a long history of manipulating research in its own interests.  It’s always good to remember that this industry’s purpose is to sell as much booze as possible to as many people as it can, while public health efforts are aimed precisely at the opposite.

Populations with the lowest overall intake of alcohol on a population basis, are those that also have low levels of alcohol-induced social problems: car and other accidents, domestic and other violence, and problems with work, intimacy, and mental and physical health.

 

Apr 29 2020

Coronavirus and ethanol: fuel and booze

Coronavirus affects everything in the food system.  Here’s what it’s doing to ethanol and alcoholic beverages.

Fuel ethanol

Q.  What does fuel ethanol have to do with food politics?

A.  About 40% of America’s corn crop is used for ethanol for cars, as a result of the fuel standards law requiring ethanol to be blended into gasoline.

Comment: Growing corn for ethanol seems absurd to me, particularly because the energy gain is so low—about 2% according to the USDA.

With that said, Covid-19 is unquestionably bad for the fuel ethanol business.

Booze

Alcoholic beverage companies that donate to Coronavirus causes are seeing huge increases in sales—as much as a tripling.

But beer has a problem.  It—and sodas and seltzers—need carbon dioxide gas to make them bubbly.  Ethanol plants collect this gas as a byproduct.  If they shut down or reduce output, the gas supply goes down.  Expect shortages.

If Covid-19 does any good at all, it is to illustrate the interconnections and contradictions of our often bizarre food system.

Jul 5 2019

Enjoy the weekend: Beverage Daily’s Beer Supplement

Beer is a hot topic these days, so hot that the industry newsletter Beverage Daily collects its articles on the topic into MONTHLY BEER SPECIALS.  I’ve picked these from the June and July Specials.  The big issues: craft, low or no alcohol, cannabis, and sustainability.

Craft 

Low and no-alcohol 

Cannibis

Sustainability

May 2 2019

A roundup of articles about—Beer!

This is BeverageDaily.com’s monthly beer special, from the industry’s point of view.  If you don’t think of beer as an industry, think again.

And, thanks to reader Polly Adema, here is one more:

 

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Feb 11 2019

Food politics issue of the week: corn syrup in beer?

I am not a football fan and missed the Super Bowl but I gather it was a hotbed of food politics due to Bud Light’s Game of Thrones’ commercial accusing competitors of using—horrors—corn syrup in the brewing process.

As Ed Mazza put it (Huffington Post), this has to be the weirdest twitter storm ever.   Corn growers and the Corn Refiners Association versus Bud Light?

Weird, indeed.  Who could possibly care?

Bud Light’s marketing people, I guess.

They love the fuss, and put a full page ad in the New York Times to celebrate.

It says “In the Bud Light Kingdom we love corn too! Corn on the cob, corn bread, popcorn—( just don’t brew with the syrup (what you also call ‘dextrose’)…But, even though corn syrup is less expensive, we brew with rice, along with the finest hops, barley, and water, because I’m the King and it’s not my job to save money.”

Oh please.

To make beer, you need yeast.  To get yeast to grow, you have to feed them some kind of sugar.  This could be corn syrup (corn glucose is called dextrose), some other glucose-containing sugar like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or sucrose, rice (yeast converts its starch to glucose, or barley treated to convert its starch to maltose (two glucose molecules bonded together) and then to glucose.  Regardless of the source of glucose, yeast metabolizes it to alcohol and characteristic flavor components.

I imagine that adding a bit of corn syrup speeds up the process, but so what?  Bud Light wants you to think that using rice instead of corn syrup makes it better than other beers.

I’m not much of a beer drinker, so I leave that one up to you.

This is about playing on public distrust of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which isn’t even at issue here.

The real problem with corn syrup.  The Corn Refiners Association, which pushes it and HFCS.

We would all be better off eating less sugar(s) of any kind, no matter where they come from.

The documents (thanks largely to The Hagstrom Report)

Sep 13 2018

Beer: sustainable, THC-infused, from BeverageDaily.com

BeverageDaily.com does a monthly special collection of industry-focused articles on beer.  This one spotlights sustainability, but includes a couple of items about—really!—cannabis-infused beer, as well as tea, coffee, and water.  As readers of this blog know, I am following the politics of cannabis edibles.  It’s now time to add drinks to the list, or what is known in the trade, apparently, as the “THC-infused beverage space.”

And here are even more of its articles about the beer industry.  Be sure to check the one about how to personalize yours with 3D printing.

 

Jul 9 2018

Beverage Daily’s roundup of articles about—Beer!

I hope you enjoyed the weekend.

Here’s Beverage Daily’s latest MONTHLY BEER SPECIAL:

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