Speakers

8th European Beer and Health Symposium

Helena Conibear is Executive Director of AIM Alcohol in Moderation. Alcohol in Moderation was founded in 1991 as an independent not for profit organisation whose role is to communicate “The Responsible Drinking Message” and to summarise and log relevant research, legislation, policy and campaigns regarding alcohol, health, social and policy issues via its publications and websites www.alcoholinmoderation.com and www.drinkingandyou.com . Helena is also founder and co –director with Professor Ellison of The International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, which since 2009 has written 200 critiques on emerging research pertinent to alcohol and health, contributed to by its 42 Professors, Medical and alcohol specialist members. For the last 20 years Helena has strived with her eminent and distinguished Social, Scientific and Medical Council to ensure the balance between the moderate enjoyment of alcohol versus the excessive use and abuse of alcohol and its associated harms is struck. She is author of many publications and articles including The Wise Drinkers Guide, Alcohol and you and talking to your kids about alcohol. AIM’s first contribution to responsible drinking guidelines was in 1994 https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmsctech/writev/1536/ag09.htm

Recent evolutions in drinking guidelines across the world: the facts and drivers of these decisions

At the centre of the ongoing social policy debate is the fundamental concern that the public be made fully aware of the risks of alcohol consumption. Experts emphasize that a better understanding of the potential risks and benefits of drinking will reinforce the sensible and responsible consumption of the individual and the public at large. Many countries across The European Union have recommended daily or weekly low risk guidelines for adults advising on the consumption of alcohol.  The rigour and scientific review process behind the setting of these guidelines varies by country. Indeed there is no agreed standard measure for a ‘drink’.

Helena Conibear will explore differing public health policy positions on alcohol in Europe, The US, Canada and Australia revealing trends on what experts agree on and what they believe the public should be told. Most guideline reviews are done by distinguished panels of experts often appointed by the government to review both the biomedical and psychosocial evidence. Most guidelines presently acknowledge the developing scientific consensus on moderate drinking and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, but this may be changing. In the past two years, two countries have reviewed and considerably changed their alcohol drinking guidelines, namely, The Netherlands in 2015 and the UK in 2016. Across Europe and the world the overall messages remain cautious and generally non-drinkers are advised not to start drinking. Overall, the messages differ especially with respect to the discussions on any potential health advantages and the general advice on women’s health, underage drinking, and the elderly.

Policy bodies prefer to err on the side of caution because there is no clear scientific finding that can uniformly apply to every segment of the public. Furthermore, guidelines acknowledge that while there may be certain benefits, these are mainly evident in middle-aged individuals and need to be adequately weighed against certain risks. Many public health policy leaders stress that these facts should be highlighted and that people should be urged to obtain more individual advice from their physician or healthcare provider rather than relying on broad public messages.

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