The National Institute of Health (NIH) announced that they are no longer going to conduct an alcohol study, that was intended to critically evaluate the benefits or drawbacks of long-term, moderate drinking. In a statement, NIH said that funding from alcohol companies was undermining the objectivity of the search. Not only that, but a number of employees involved in the trial acted inappropriately. When I first read that, I thought maybe they got into the sauce a bit too much and did things they regret, but that’s not the case. In fact, charges have been brought against some employees from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, because they solicited gift funding and didn’t follow the standard operating procedure.
The fact that this study has been axed is kind of alarming. Well, the fact that the study was compromised in the first place might be even more alarming. The decision was made by Francis Collins, who is the Director of the NIH. I’m not saying that they made the wrong decision, but I do think that the fact that it happened is a bit of an issue. The Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health Trial was designed to follow over 7,000 people for years, at a cost of around $100 million. Half of the study’s participants would be instructed to abstain from alcohol, while the other half would be told to have a drink every day. The study was being funded in part by major players in the alcohol industry, through a non-profit foundation linked to the NIH.
Where did the study go sideways? Apparently, the scientists working on the study, and even NIH officials had met with alcohol company executives, and they solicited money from them – which is in huge violation of government policy. Hence why NIH had to shut down the trial and start up their own investigation. What did the study reveal? There appeared to be an effort to intentionally bias the framing “of the scientific premise in the direction of demonstrating a beneficial health effect of moderate alcohol consumption”.
Man, I love a good conspiracy theory. So what do we think this one is? Is alcohol really a bad thing? I think the answer to this one is – it depends on how it gets used. For me, I drink to cover up pain, or drown my sorrows, so to speak. Yes, I can handle alcohol and drink it only once in a while, but there are also times when I’ll open up a bottle of wine, just because I had a bad day. Thus forming a bad habit and relationship between myself and alcohol. Which is why I’m not surprised that alcohol gets a bad rap. That said, it’s not necessarily always that bad. Perhaps the alcohol companies didn’t want it getting out that even in moderation, it’s not that good for you. I know myself when I drink (even just a little), it increases my heart rate. There’s got to be something there.
While I’m not saying that we should be surprised by the alcohol companies in this case, I think we should be surprised by the NIH. They shouldn’t have compromised the study, to begin with, and I think that’s the real shame. It will be interesting to see if the NIH does conduct another study in the future. I think the information needs to be shared with the public. Especially if there are adverse side effects of moderate drinking. We are all very health conscious these days, so it only makes sense that we understand what we’re putting in our bodies.