Serving smaller alcoholic drinks could reduce the UK’s alcohol consumption | Research Report | University of Liverpool

New research published in Addiction, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, highlights the potential benefits of reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages.

It is well known that alcohol consumption contributes to premature death and ill health, and alcohol-related harm places a substantial burden on society. Many drinkers find it hard to cut down and attempts to cut down often do not lead to actual reductions in alcohol consumption. Therefore, changes to the environment that make it easier for people to drink less could have a substantial impact on public health.

One potential environmental influence on alcohol consumption is serving size. Nutrition research consistently shows that portion sizes affect how much a person eats. People eat more if they are given a relatively large portion of food compared to smaller portions, but they do not compensate for this by eating less later on. However, the effect that serving size has on alcohol consumption has not been examined until now. The present research aimed to investigate if reducing the serving size of alcoholic beverages would reduce alcohol consumption.

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Standard vs Reduced serving sizes:

The researchers, led by Dr Inge Kersbergen from the University of Liverpool, tested the effects of reducing the serving size of alcohol on how much alcohol participants drank in two studies.

In the first study, participants were randomized to consume alcohol from standard or reduced serving sizes whilst watching a one-hour TV programme in a laboratory that looks like a living room. Standard serving sizes contained 2.07 units per serving (equivalent to a pint of weak lager) and reduced serving sizes contained 25% less than the standard serving.

In the second study, participants were invited to one of four pub quiz nights in a local bar which only sold standard vs. reduced serving sizes. Standard servings were pints and 175ml of wine (‘typically served as a medium glass in pubs’) and reduced servings were 2/3 pints and 125ml of wine (‘small glass’). Drink prices were adjusted to make sure that the standard and reduced serving sizes were the same value for money. Researchers observed how much alcohol each participant drank.

In both experiments, participants could order as many drinks as they wanted for the duration of the experiment. This means that participants drinking from reduced servings could compensate for the smaller serving size by ordering more drinks if they wanted to.

The researchers found that participants who were served relatively smaller servings drank less alcohol in a single drinking session than participants who were served standard servings. In the first study, reduced serving sizes led to a 20.7% – 22.3% decrease in alcohol consumption over a one-hour drinking period in the ‘living room’ lab. In the second study, reduced serving sizes led to a 32.4% – 39.6% decrease alcohol consumption over a longer drinking period (up to three hours) during the real-life pub quiz.

Based on the results the researchers used the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model to estimate that reducing the standard serving size of beer, wine and cider in bars and restaurants by a quarter would lead to 1,400 fewer deaths and 73,000 fewer hospital admissions every year.

Public health intervention:

Dr Kersbergen, said: “These studies are the first to demonstrate that reducing the serving size of alcoholic beverages prompts reductions in alcohol consumption.

The typical serving size of beer in the UK of a pint is larger than many other countries and the size of wine servings in UK bars and restaurants has increased in recent decades, so there is room for serving sizes to be reduced without making them unrealistically small. Reducing the standard serving size of alcohol in bars and restaurants may be an effective way to reduce alcohol consumption at the population level and improve public health.”

Professor Matt Field, who leads the Addiction research group within the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool, added: “Reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic drinks could automatically prompt people to drink less, even if they are not motivated to cut down. But at the same time, the total amount that people consume would remain completely their own choice”.

Dr Eric Robinson, a University of Liverpool researcher who was also involved in the study, said: “Our research showed that people do not seem to compensate for the smaller servings by ordering more drinks on a single night and it seems unlikely that any further compensation would happen, but future research is needed to find out if people may compensate in other ways, such as drinking more often or getting stronger drinks.”

The full study, entitled ‘Reducing the standard serving size of alcoholic beverages prompts reductions in alcohol consumption’, can be found here and was funded in part by an MRC research grant awarded to Dr Eric Robinson.

Original post 14/05/2018: University of Liverpool News

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Alcohol Policy in Practice | Continuing Professional Development Course | 11th-13th September 2018

Following the successful Alcohol CPD courses held in 2014-2017; we are delighted to announce the line-up for our 2018 course, featuring some exciting new inputs!

This year’s course will feature inputs from Prof. Anna Gilmore and colleagues from the University of Bath, Dr Carol Emslie from Glasgow Caledonian University, Dr James Nicholls from Alcohol Research UK, and Professor Karine Gallopel-Morvan from the EHESP School of Public Health, France. We also welcome the return of highly-rated inputs from leading experts such as Katherine Brown from the Institute of Alcohol Studies and Colin Shevills of Balance North East.

What previous participants said:

“Great range of content and world-class speakers. Organisers did an amazing job including looking after us all while we were here. The mix of lectures / Q & As / panel discussions was great. Really worth taking time away from work/home to attend this.”
“Extremely informative course and relevant to current alcohol policy challenges. Good venue, convenient location and lovely setting. Module well organised and brilliant range of speakers.”
“Thank you very much. It was a great privilege to listen and attend this course. Lectures and lecturers were outstanding.”
“Very informative useful training, well worth my time and travel.”
“Wonderful networking opportunity.”
“Thank you for such a brilliant training event – the content was spot on, all the presentations and sessions were really, really good and I came away feeling that I had learned masses: a rich diet of fact and opinion. I can honestly say that I have rarely – if ever – enjoyed such an event quite as much as this one.”

Anyone wishing to gain an in-depth understanding and up to date insight into evidence and innovative practice in alcohol policy in the UK and internationally.
Previous participants have included people working in public health, local and national alcohol policy, or alcohol research; from Iceland to New Zealand.
Places are filling up fast and the early-bird rate applies until Friday 15th June 2018! 

Apply Here!

New Systematic Review: Effectiveness of Mass Media Campaigns to Reduce Alcohol Consumption and Harm

This systematic review, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, assessed the effectiveness of mass media messages to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms. Eight databases were searched along with reference lists of eligible studies. Studies of any design in any country were included, provided that they evaluated a mass media intervention targeting alcohol consumption or related behavioural, social cognitive or clinical outcomes. This was the first comprehensive systematic review of evidence of the effectiveness of mass media to reduce alcohol consumption, allowing those who make decisions about whether and how to develop and implement such campaigns to do so informed by a synthesis of the evidence base.
a&a1The search produced 10,212 results and 24 studies were included in the review. Most of the campaigns used TV or radio in combination with other media channels. There was little evidence of reduction in alcohol consumption associated with exposure to campaigns based on 13 studies which measured consumption, although most did not state this as a specific aim of the campaign. There were some increases in treatment seeking and information seeking and mixed evidence of changes in intentions, motivation, beliefs and attitudes about alcohol. Campaigns were associated with increases in knowledge about alcohol consumption, especially where levels had initially been low.The evidence suggests mass media health campaigns about alcohol can be recalled by individuals and can achieve changes in knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about alcohol, based mainly on weak quality studies. Findings of studies that measured alcohol consumption suggest campaigns have not reduced consumption, although most did not state that they directly aim to do so.

The finding that campaigns can be recalled suggests appropriate media channels, targeting strategies, durations and intensities have been utilized to reach target audiences. These campaign characteristics were not always reported by studies so it is not possible to draw a link between types of campaign strategies and levels of recall or exposure. Recall of tobacco mass media campaigns has been shown to be positively associated with smoking cessation (Jepson et al., 2007) so the outcome may be an important first step towards subsequent behaviour change in populations.

Most campaigns that aimed to improve knowledge were shown to be effective. This was particularly evident in areas where knowledge was initially low, for example, knowledge of unit consumption guidelines and of the link between alcohol and cancer. Mass media can yield sustained knowledge, which may lay the groundwork for reductions in consumption that are achieved using other public health measures.

There was evidence of increases in information seeking and treatment seeking. However, alcohol campaigns have not presented the simple call to action of tobacco messages (‘quit’) or provided offers of tangible help such as ‘quitlines’. Furthermore, as alcohol support services have historically been aimed at very heavy drinkers there may be a perception that current services do not cater for those who drink less. Mass media might therefore have limited utility in promoting service uptake.

Most studies found no impact on alcohol consumption, consistent with the conclusion of a previous review that there should be modest expectations of behaviour change from such campaigns (Snyder et al., 2004). Longer term evaluations conducted following sustained and repeated exposure to campaigns might be expected to be better able to detect effects on behaviour. However, the relationship between tobacco mass media campaign duration and effectiveness has been difficult to gauge due to confounding influences and trends over time (Durkin et al., 2012). The context in which alcohol health promotion campaigns operate is particularly challenging because of the ubiquity and power of alcohol marketing (de Bruijn et al., 2016) and pro-alcohol cultural norms (Gordon et al., 2012). This is another key difference to tobacco, where health campaigns in recent years have run in a context where most tobacco marketing has been banned or strictly regulated and social norms have become increasingly anti-smoking. The current review found evidence of impact on short term intermediate outcomes, suggesting mass media can play a supportive role for other actions which are more likely to have an impact on behaviour. These might include price-based measures (Babor et al., 2010), advertising restrictions (Siegfried et al., 2014), limiting availability and access to alcohol (Anderson et al., 2009) with the targeting of high risk groups (Foxcroft et al., 2015).

Alcohol and Alcoholismhttps://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agx094
Published: 10 January 2018

Alcohol industry misleading the public about alcohol-related cancer risk – Research Report from LSHTM

The study identifies “denying, distortion and distraction” as main strategies!

The alcohol industry (AI) is misrepresenting evidence about the alcohol-related risk of cancer with activities that have parallels with those of the tobacco industry, according to new research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine with the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, the team analysed the information relating to cancer which appears on the websites and documents of nearly 30 alcohol industry organisations around the world between September 2016 and December 2016. Most of the organisational websites (24/26) showed some sort of distortion or misrepresentation of the evidence about alcohol-related cancer risk, with breast and colorectal cancers being the most common focus of misrepresentation.

The most common approach involves presenting the relationship between alcohol and cancer as highly complex, with the implication or statement that there is no evidence of a consistent or independent link. Others include denying that any relationship exists or claiming inaccurately that there is no risk for light or ‘moderate’ drinking, as well discussing a wide range of real and potential risk factors, thus presenting alcohol as just one risk among many.

According to the study, the researchers say policymakers and public health bodies should reconsider their relationships to these alcohol industry bodies, as the industry is involved in developing alcohol policy in many countries, and disseminates health information to the public.

Alcohol consumption is a well-established risk factor for a range of cancers, including oral cavity, liver, breast and colorectal cancers, and accounts for about 4% of new cancer cases annually in the UK1. There is limited evidence that alcohol consumption protects against some cancers, such as renal and ovary cancers, but in 2016 the UK’s Committee on Carcinogenicity concluded that the evidence is inconsistent, and the increased risk of other cancers as a result of drinking alcohol far outweighs any possible decreased risk².

This new study analysed the information which is disseminated by 27 AI-funded organisations, most commonly ‘social aspects and public relations organisations’ (SAPROs), and similar bodies. The researchers aimed to determine the extent to which the alcohol industry fully and accurately communicates the scientific evidence on alcohol and cancer to consumers. They analysed information on cancer and alcohol consumption disseminated by alcohol industry bodies and related organisations from English speaking countries, or where the information was available in English.

Through qualitative analysis of this information they identified three main industry strategies. Denying, or disputing any link with cancer, or selective omission of the relationship, Distortion: mentioning some risk of cancer, but misrepresenting or obfuscating the nature or size of that risk and Distraction: focusing discussion away from the independent effects of alcohol on common cancers.

Mark Petticrew, Professor of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of the study, said: “The weight of scientific evidence is clear – drinking alcohol increases the risk of some of the most common forms of cancer, including several common cancers. Public awareness of this risk is low, and it has been argued that greater public awareness, particularly of the risk of breast cancer, poses a significant threat to the alcohol industry. Our analysis suggests that the major global alcohol producers may attempt to mitigate this by disseminating misleading information about cancer through their ‘responsible drinking’ bodies.”

A common strategy was ‘selective omission’ – avoiding mention of cancer while discussing other health risks or appearing to selectively omit specific cancers. The researchers say that one of the most important findings is that AI materials appear to specifically omit or misrepresent the evidence on breast and colorectal cancer. One possible reason is that these are among the most common cancers, and therefore may be more well-known than oral and oesophageal cancers.

When breast cancer is mentioned the researchers found that 21 of the organisations present no, or misleading, information on breast cancer, such as presenting many alternative possible risk factors for breast cancer, without acknowledging the independent risk of alcohol consumption.

Professor Petticrew said: “Existing evidence of strategies employed by the alcohol industry suggests that this may not be a matter of simple error. This has obvious parallels with the global tobacco industry’s decades-long campaign to mislead the public about the risk of cancer, which also used front organisations and corporate social activities.”

The researchers say the results are important because the alcohol industry is involved in conveying  health information to people around the world. The findings also suggest that major international alcohol companies may be misleading their shareholders about the risks of their products, potentially leaving the industry open to litigation in some countries.

Professor Petticrew said: “Some public health bodies liaise with the industry organisations that we analysed. Despite their undoubtedly good intentions, it is unethical for them to lend their expertise and legitimacy to industry campaigns which mislead the public about alcohol-related harms. Our findings are also a clear reminder of the risks of giving the AI the responsibility of informing the public about alcohol and health.

“It has often been assumed that, by and large, the AI, unlike the tobacco industry, has tended not to deny the harms of alcohol. However, through its provision of misleading information it can maintain what has been called ‘the illusion of righteousness’ in the eyes of policymakers, while negating any significant impact on alcohol consumption and profits.

“It’s important to highlight that if people drink within the recommended guidelines they shouldn’t be too concerned when it comes to cancer. For accurate and accessible information on the risks, the public can visit the NHS website.”

The authors acknowledge limitations of their study including that there are many other mechanisms and organisations through which industry disseminates health-related information which they did not examine, although it is unlikely that the messages would be different.

The researchers also say there is an urgent need to examine other industry websites, documents, social media and other materials in order to assess the nature and extent of the distortion of evidence, and whether it extends to other health information, for example, in relation to cardiovascular disease.

 

Publication:
Mark Petticrew, Nason Maani Hessari ,Cécile knai and Elisabete Weiderpass. How alcohol industry organisations mislead the public about alcohol and cancer. Drug and Alcohol Review. DOI: 10.1111/dar.12596
1Cancer Research UK: Statistics on preventable cancers.
2Committee on Carcinogenicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment (COC). Statement 2015/S2.
About the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine:
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with more than 4,000 students and 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The School is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, is among the world’s leading schools in public and global health, and was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2016. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice. http://www.lshtm.ac.uk

Photos from the UKCRC conference June 2017 – Progress & Pathways

The UKCRC Public Health Research Centres of Excellence are building academic capacity, increasing infrastructure and promoting multi-disciplinary working in public health research in the UK. The Centres are bringing leading research experts together with practitioners, policy makers and wider stakeholders to tackle complex public health issues.

The seventh annual UKCRC Centres conference was co-hosted by DECIPHer, Fuse, and the Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland, in partnership with CEDAR, UKCTAS and SCPHRP. This year the event focused on the successes of the UKCRC initiative over the last nine years, showcasing the achievements of the public health research Centres in relation to three themes:

  • capacity development
  • systems change and partnerships; and
  • impact through innovation.

The one day conference was an opportunity for public health researchers, policy makers, practitioners and funders across the UK to exchange knowledge on world class research, innovative public health practices and successful collaborations. Researchers from UKCTAS presented at the conference on a number of different topic including, harm reduction, e-cigarettes, public engagement and development of the UK’s drinking guidelines.

Below are a few pictures from the event, more can be seen on our twitter feed.

Prof Linda Bauld on E-cigarette use during pregnancy at GFN 2017

Global Forum on Nicotine 2017 – ‘Reducing Harm, Saving Lives’

E-cigarette use during pregnancy – What do we know?

At the June Global Forum on Nicotine event Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, presented an update on e-cigarette use during pregnancy. In the presentation Linda highlights the latest research, a brief overview of smoking in pregnancy and why pregnant women who are still smoking should be encouraged to switch to e-cigarettes.

External link for video: E-cigarette use during pregnancy – Professor Linda Bauld

Other links:

Smokefree action’s info-graphic on e-cigarettes in pregnancy

To see other presentations from the conference click here.

Latest press release from UKCTAS:

Vaping may help explain the record fall in UK smoking rates