Beer May Lessen Chronic Pain

health
Here’s another study you won’t see reported by Alcohol Justice, because it goes against their propagandist mantra. A study conducted at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland essentially found that the moderate consumption of alcohol might lessen chronic pain, especially in people with fibromyalgia, defined as a “a syndrome characterized by fatigue and chronic pain in the muscles and in tissues surrounding the joints.”

Drinks Business summarized the findings:

In a study of over 2,000 sufferers of chronic widespread pain, those who often consumed above average amounts of alcohol had lower levels of disability than those who never or rarely drank.

The research into sufferers of fibromyalgia — a rheumatic condition that causes muscular pain and stiffness — surveyed patient’s eating and drinking habits to determine the effect of diet on their symptoms.

Of the 2,239 people surveyed, those who drank 21 to 35 units of alcohol per week were 67% less likely than to experience disability than those who didn’t drink.

The study itself was published on the July issue of the journal Arthritis Care & Research under the title “Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower risk (and severity) of chronic widespread pain: Results from a UK population-based study.”

Aberdeen also put out a pdf with the basics of the study and here’s the Abstract:

Objectives: To determine whether reported level of alcohol consumption is associated with the likelihood of reporting chronic widespread pain (CWP) and, amongst persons with CWP, the associated disability.

Methods: A population-based study in two areas of the United Kingdom. Participants self-completed a postal questionnaire. They were classified according to whether they met the American College of Rheumatology definition of CWP and whether the pain was disabling (Chronic Pain Grade III or IV). They reported their usual level of alcohol consumption. Potential confounding factors on which information was available included age, gender, cigarette smoking, employment status, self-reported weight and height and level of deprivation.

Results: 13,574 persons participated (mean age 55 years; 57% female) of whom 2239 (16.5%) had CWP: 28% reported never regularly consuming alcohol, 28% consuming up to 5 units/wk, 20% 6-10 units/wk and 24% more than 10 units/wk. Amongst persons with CWP, disability was strongly linked to level of alcohol consumption. Prevalence of disability decreased with increasing alcohol consumption up to 35 unit/wk (Odds Ratio (OR)21-35 units alcohol/wk v. never drinkers 0.33 95% CI (0.19,0.58)) adjusted for confounders. A similar relationship was found between reporting CWP and level of alcohol consumption (adjOR21-35 units alcohol/wk v. regular drinkers 0.76 95% CI (0.61-0.94).

Conclusions: This study has demonstrated strong associations between level of alcohol consumption and CWP. However the available evidence does not allow us to conclude that the association is causal. The strength of the associations means that specific studies to examine this potential relationship are warranted.

So while the researchers believe more study is necessary to confirm a causal connection, they do believe there are “strong associations” between moderate drinking and chronic widespread pain, and that those are robust enough to warrant additional study.

chronic-pain

Nielsen Beer Numbers Show Where Growth Is Happening

sales-chart-up
Earlier today, Bart Watson, the BA’s economist, tweeted a chart from Nielsen entitled “Craft Beer is a Staple Out West and Growing Across the Country.” The chart is from a new report released yesterday, called Tapped In: Craft and Local Are Powerful Trends in the Beer Aisle. It shows three columns of data, including dollar share, percentage change of dollar volume versus last year and changes in dollar share versus last year. This is for “craft beer,” which Nieslen defines slightly differently than the BA, if memory serves.

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The top five markets for share of craft beer are on the west coast, three of them in California: San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. The bottom five are all midwest and east coast, though only Washington DC is a particularly large market, with the other four being somewhat smaller. The top five each represents market in which craft enjoys roughly one-third of all beer sales, which is amazing to me given where we were just ten or twenty years ago.

In terms of change, Birmingham, Alabama is the surprise winner with an astonishing 63.1% growth in volume over last year. Although equally surprising is San Diego who despite being the third largest market for craft, also grew 22.5% more on a large base, and was the fourth highest in volume growth.

Of the categories Nielsen tracks, cider is the one most on fire, with volume up 43.2%. Next is craft beer with 10.2%, tied with Mexican beer, although craft has the edge in percentage change in value, though I’m not entirely sure how that’s calculated. Super Premium, Premium, and Sub Premium are all trending down, with negative numbers, though not by much. Sub Premium is losing the most ground, down 3.5% by volume.

In addition, Nieksen surveyed beer drinkers about how much they care about their beer being local.

Newswire template

If you’re unfamiliar with Nielsen, they track sales data in primarily larger, chain outlets like groceries, convenience stores, liquor and drug chains, etc. as opposed to beer stores and more independent or unique sales avenues. But because they’ve been collecting consistent data for a number of years, their information is usually pretty reliable and a decent snapshot of what’s going on across the country. Here’s some more of their analysis regarding where people are buying beer.

At the end of June 2015, craft beer accounted for 11.9% of the total dollar volume of the beer category in the U.S. It’s worth noting, however, that craft’s market share varies significantly by channel. For example, it has a much larger share in the grocery channel (20.1%) than the convenience (4.6%) and drug (8.7%) store channels, largely because grocery stores have significantly more floor space available, which allows for greater assortment and options for consumers. That said, however, the convenience channel holds the title for being the leader for overall beer sales, and craft is making a strong run there, growing at a faster pace in the convenience channel (+21.4%) than in grocery stores (+13.7%) for the 52 weeks ending June 20, 2015.

Google Trends In Beer

line-chart
This morning Jonathan Surratt alerted me to a fun tool that Google has available, known as Google Trends Explore. You can use it to compare trends in virtually any search term and even topics (which is in beta). Jonathan was comparing “craft beer” to things like potato salad and mashed potatoes, but you can do all sorts of comparisons. So just for a bit of fun, I tried a few different ones. Most are comparing searches, but a few measure topics. Five is the most comparisons you can do at one time, but that still allows for some interesting pairings. In each case, the charts show the trends from 2004 through the present, which is over ten years of data.

First, here’s the difference between craft beer vs. beer. Just beer is beating the pants off modified beer. Good.
beer-vs-craft

Here’s Craft Beer, Beer and Wine compared. Wine is leaving us in the dust.
beer-vs-craft-vs-wine

And here’s just beer and wine. But it’s not that far apart and we are gaining on them.
beer-vs-wine

And this is beer vs. wine, but by topic instead of by searches. By topic it’s closer still, and we’ve even come up on top a few times closer to the present.
beer-vs-wine-interest

Here’s beer compared to four popular spirits. Vodka, not surprisingly, is leading the tightly packed spirits, but beer is besting all of them pretty handily.
beer-vs-spirits

And here’s five of the most popular beer brands.
top-5-brewery-search

This is the same five beer brands but by topic.
top-5-brewery-interest

Craft Brewers Just Don’t Care

calories
Nobody can piss me off faster than Alcohol Justice, the self-styled do gooders and self-proclaimed “watchdogs” of those of us in the evil alcohol empire. I just noticed this yesterday, but for at least the last week, they’ve been tweeting this inaccurate and misleading message that “High-calorie craft beer maker’s don’t care.” Here’s what they say:

AJ-tweet-15-07-04

You don’t have to be Noam Chomsky to parse this sentence and figure out what they’re saying. Beer has lots of calories and brewers just don’t give a shit, painting craft brewers in a negative light, something Alcohol Justice has turned in to an art form. But is that the truth? Is that even what the source of this claims? Regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that AJ once again has taken a statement and twisted into something else to promote their own agenda. Shocking, I know. The original source of this comes from an article in the Columbus Dispatch on June 26 entitled Small breweries sometimes make high-octane, high-calorie beers.

It’s all about calories and how some higher alcohol beers made by craft brewers have more calories than lower alcohol beers, which is a world class “duh.” If you claim you don’t know that more alcohol has more calories then I’m amazed at the level of ignorance you’re willing to admit. If you’re drinking an imperial stout and have convinced yourself it contains no more calories than a pale ale, you’re willfully deluding yourself, and you probably know it, even if you won’t admit it. But I’m not terribly interested in the calorie question, it’s been done to death and certainly isn’t going away anytime soon. What really annoys me is Alcohol Justice’s flippant hatred of brewers and insisting they don’t care, as if that makes them bad people. The reality, of course, is quite different. Here’s the relevant portion of the article:

Unless they’re aiming for a low-cal beer to appeal to dieters, day drinkers and the like, craft brewers say they don’t give two pints about calories. They’re after flavor and aroma and other qualities that make drinking good beer worth it. The qualities of your favorite porter or citrus-forward IPA depend upon a series of ingredient choices and the complex interplay of water, grain, hops and yeast that follows.

So it’s not that the brewers “don’t care” about higher calories, it’s simply that they place more emphasis on aromas and flavors, preferring to create beers that feature those more prominently. They’re not willfully making high calorie beers just to fatten people up and make them unhealthy, as AJ suggests. And why pick on brewers? This is especially galling since wine and sprits, with far more alcohol, has … wait for it … far more calories. Beer has the fewest calories of any alcoholic drink by ounce. I’m sure people will argue that people drink more beer so that’s moot. But the point of drinking better beer is to drink less of it. To me at least, beer with flavor is not made to pound, but to enjoy at a more reasonable pace, usually determined by the circumstances. Imperial stout is not made to be swigged, but shared in a snifter or similar glass, so the idea that it’s the same as any other beer seems at best facetious. If you’re downing pint glasses of Parabola or Ten FIDY you’re doing it wrong. Here’s an infographic that accompanied the article.

calories-in-craft-beer

But the larger point is why do we attack beer and alcohol makers for the natural amount of calories created by the way they’re made? We don’t do that for calorie-rich desserts like cake, ice cream and pie. You know what else is high in calories? Cereal, avocados, bananas, nuts and berries, granola bars, pasta, lobster and so many more foods we love. But we’re not lambasting the people who farm, grow or make those for not caring about how high in calories they are. That’s because they’re not intentionally making them high in calories, it’s just the result of their nature. The same is true for beer. Brewers aren’t intentionally making high-calorie beers to fuck with people the way Alcohol Justice so churlishly insists. They’re making them because they taste good, and people want them, not because they just “don’t care.”

Are there no ethical standards for non-profits? Shouldn’t “watchdogs” who claim the moral high ground have to at least be honest and truthful themselves? Because even though they claim “beer makers don’t care,” they certainly don’t seem to care about their own veracity, and instead twist anything they can to fit their increasingly narrow narrative that everything having to do with alcohol, and especially beer it seems, is bad.

Your Favorite Beer State By State

maps-usa
Here’s another interesting map of the U.S., supposedly showing the most popular beer for each state. I have no idea how the data was compiled as the creator of the map, and presumably the data behind it, CubeYou, all day yesterday presented you with the following error message when you click on State by State Favorite Beer: “Error establishing a database connection.” And you get that same message even trying to visit their home page so either they’ve been inundated with visitors today (doubtful) or something’s going on with their website (but whatever it is has been going on for several hours). This morning it was finally back up, but we’re no closer to understanding their methodology. They state that “the Beer Map below illustrates the beer brands that have the highest popularity in each state. Popularity indicates how popular a beer is in each state compared with the national distribution.” But that really doesn’t tell us much. And not having any information about who’s in second, third, etc. also makes it difficult to rely on their data.

There are a lot of local favorites, and of course the big boys hold sway in a number of states (10 for ABI beers and 2 apiece for Coors, Miller and Pabst). A few I can’t quite make out because of the size of the map so my own analysis may be off accordingly. Lagunitas owns both California and Illinois, where they have breweries. Heineken’s got Nevada and Hawaii (damn tourists) and imports rule in a few more states, sadly. A few more curious spots: Coors in Washington, and more surprising, Alaskan Brewing in Oregon. Given how fiercely loyal the state is toward their beer, that surprises me most of all, but maybe it has to do with how many strong brands their are in Oregon and that causes them to cancel one another out (or maybe it’s just wrong).

UPDATE: Now that I’m able to see the map larger and make out all of the name on it, even more problems emerge. In Minnesota and Tennessee, Midwest Supplies is listed as those states’ most popular beer, even though it’s a homebrew supply store. Arkansas and Montana have listed “Craft Beer On Tap,” a generic logo and not a brand at all as far as I can tell. Ceres, the Danish beer, in Florida seems questionable and as a reader pointed out, Yuengling is not even distributed in the state of Maine so it’s hard to see how it could be the most popular beer there. And as another reader mentioned, Dogfish Head not being the most popular in their home state of Delaware stretches credulity, as well, and all of these issues in total are making this exercise veer toward farce or chicanery. Whatever CubeYou’s actual methodology might have been, it’s hard to see that they produced any legitimate results. I had wished once their website was back up that there would be more transparency about how the data was collected and perhaps even a way to peek into the raw data itself. Unfortunately, if anything, they seem to have gone out of their way to obfuscate how they arrived upon the results.

state-by-state-favorite-long

The Most Distinctive Causes Of Death By State

death
This is somewhat interesting, though it was little to do with beer. The CDC released the results of an analysis of the “most distinctive cause of death for each state and the District of Columbia, 2001–2010.” I never realized this, but it makes sense. The CDC uses a standardized List of 113 Selected Causes of Death, based on the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision. This is to help the data collected be more useful, and allows comparisons to be drawn if the data is not affected by local bias or custom. Then the data used was “age-adjusted state-specific death rate for each cause of death relative to the national age-adjusted death rate for each cause of death, equivalent to a location quotient.”

us-distinctive-causes-of-diseases
The analysis that went into creating the map was done by Francis Boscoe, who’s a researcher at the New York State Cancer Registry. Here’s the main findings, from the CDC website:

The resulting map depicts a variety of distinctive causes of death based on a wide range of number of deaths, from 15,000 deaths from HIV in Florida to 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas to 22 deaths from syphilis in Louisiana. The largest number of deaths mapped were the 37,292 deaths in Michigan from “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described”; the fewest, the 11 deaths in Montana from “acute and rapidly progressive nephritic and nephrotic syndrome.” The state-specific percentage of total deaths mapped ranged from 1.8% (Delaware; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described) to 0.0005% (Illinois, other disorders of kidney).

Some of the findings make intuitive sense (influenza in some northern states, pneumoconioses in coal-mining states, air and water accidents in Alaska and Idaho), while the explanations for others are less immediately apparent (septicemia in New Jersey, deaths by legal intervention in 3 Western states). The highly variable use of codes beginning with “other” between states is also apparent. For example, Oklahoma accounted for 24% of the deaths attributable to “other acute ischemic heart diseases” in the country despite having only slightly more than 1% of the population, resulting in a standardized mortality rate ratio of 19.4 for this cause of death, the highest on the map. The highest standardized mortality rate ratio after Oklahoma was 12.4 for pneumoconioses in West Virginia.

A limitation of this map is that it depicts only 1 distinctive cause of death for each state. All of these were significantly higher than the national rate, but there were many others also significantly higher than the national rate that were not mapped. The map is also predisposed to showing rare causes of death — for 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. Using broader cause-of-death categories or requiring a higher threshold for the number of deaths would result in a different map. These limitations are characteristic of maps generally and are why these maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries.

Notice that despite prohibitionists claiming that alcohol is the “3rd-Leading Preventable Cause Of Death,” it’s actually not even on the list. It’s not even on the list of 113, apart from the more specific “Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Also, cancer isn’t among any of the top cause for any individual state, which is surprising given that it’s usually listed as the number two cause overall. Some of the stranger ones include Oregon and Nevada, whose leading cause is “legal intervention.” Then there’s Alabama and Tennessee with “accidental discharge of firearms,” while in Arizona and Arkansas it’s “discharge of firearms, undetermined intent.” Is anyone else bothered by the fact that in four states you’re most likely to die by being shot, whatever the reason?

Economic Impact Of California Beer

california
The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) recently commissioned an economic impact study of the state’s brewing industry for last year. And the news is pretty great. Here’s some of the highlights:

Economic Impact: In 2014 craft beer contributed more than $6.5 billion to the economy of California. That’s up 18% from 2013. That’s a fairly conservative number and they’ll have a more accurate and most likely higher numbers in June when the full report is finished. The craft beer industry in California has a higher economic impact than any other state in the US.

Employment: In 2014 Craft Brewers employed more than 48,000 Californians.

Growth: During 2014 the number of operating breweries grew by over 24% giving us a total of 520 operating breweries in California.

Taxes: In 2014 California craft brewers paid over $56 million in State and federal excise taxes and paid more than $1.3 billion in income and other local, state and federal taxes ($880 million in state and local income taxes and $465 in federal income taxes).

Production Volume: 3.5 Million Barrels

Exports: 1.3 million barrels. (That’s still higher than the total production of all but two other states (PA and CO)).

cal-econ-2015

Parenting Lessons From The Prohibitionists

parents
I’m always amazed about how people feel there’s nothing with wrong with telling me how to live, what to believe or how to raise my children. Advice is fine, even if it’s often unbidden, but so much of our culture revolves around believing we know what’s best for everybody else. And even that would be just fine if people smugly thought they were better than other people (not that there aren’t of plenty of people who do fit that description) if they didn’t take the next step of trying to force their point of view on the rest of us.

Parenting is certainly not the only place this phenomenon manifests itself, but it is one of the most pervasive. I recently saw a story that illustrates this perfectly. A suburban couple let their two kids (I think ages 7 and 9) walk their neighborhood alone as long as they stayed together. The parents also taught them to hold hands when crossing the street and other sensible safety tips. But authorities saw them walking down a street, picked them up (frightening them in the process), and charged the parents with child endangerment, citing some forgotten law about kids having to be supervised at all times. I can’t tell you how often I was out of my parents watchful gaze as a kid, but it was a lot. And not just me, but literally every kid I knew. I know “times have changed” and all that but have we really become a police state? There was a similar story about a kid in New York City whose mother was teaching her to take the subway by herself, and the police tried to arrest her, too. This is getting seriously out of hand. We may as well just lock up this generation and not let them out of their prisons (homes, I mean homes) until they turn 18 (or 21 lest they discover the illicit pleasure of alcohol while off fighting our next war to protect our way of life).

But what will such a sheltered generation do, having faced no dangers, no frightening situations where there was no parent to swoop in and save the day? They’ll probably fall apart, that’s what. Raising a child is teaching them how to be on their own, to become self-reliant adults. How can we possibly do that by never allowing them to ever be unsupervised? How can we teach them to trust anyone if we never trust them to be on their own? It’s baffling that we’re doing this to our children. I’m not saying ship them off to the inner city to fend for themselves, but slowly, little by little, teach them to be responsible for themselves. Give them small tasks to complete, unsupervised jobs where we let them figure out how to accomplish a goal or even let them fail once in awhile. It’s how we learn. A speaker at my class Wednesday night was reminding my students that not only should you not worry about failing once in a while in your business, but if you don’t, you’ll never learn anything. He remarked that you only learn from your mistakes, taking very little from your victories. So as parents, if we never let our kids learn how to compete, let them fail or put them in situations that test them, they’ll never become full-fledged individuals capable of surviving in the wild. Is that why so many kids are still living at home with their parents after they’re adults? I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but it seems like it has to be a factor. Helicopter parenting has to be part of the answer.

But regardless of how any of us decide we want to raise our children, why do we feel that however we do it is the right way, often the only way, and proceed to do whatever we can to shame anyone with a different idea. I confess, I’m guilty of this, too, from time to time. Every time I’m in a movie theatre with kids who’ve never been taught to shut up, I’m guilty of wanting to shout at their parents, who blissfully keep answering their inane questions — still using their outside voice — with nary a care for the rest of the audience. That’s maddening, to me, especially since it wasn’t that difficult to teach our own kids to be quiet watching a film. But on the larger questions, why do so many people think they should be able to push their ideals on everyone else?

Nowhere is this more in the open as when it comes to alcohol. The very idea that we lowered the drinking age from the nearly worldwide standard of 18 to 21, while still allowing our 18-20 years olds to fight and die for us, is indicative of the “we know better than you” school of parenting. The latest example of this to get me fired up is a link sent to me by Brian Yaeger, who’s recently moved back to Portland from Amsterdam. (Thanks, Brian. I’ll get you for this!) The link he sent me was from a CNN article, Kids allowed sips of alcohol are more likely to drink in high school, study says. WebMD also tackled the same underlying study with Letting Kids Sip Alcohol May ‘Send Wrong Message’.

Alcohol Justice’s reaction was swift and predictable.

AJ-tweet-15-04-01

New Data: Letting Kids Sip Booze Makes It More Appealing http://bit.ly/1G5gFcr Duh!! @AlcoholJustice

Their tweet linked to the WebMD’s take, which is how I subsequently saw that one. I love that they still haven’t quite figured out this Twitter thing, even though they tweet something like two dozen times a a day, often sending the same tweets over and over again for weeks on end. But copying your own Twitter handle in your own message, in effect letting yourself know about the tweet you just sent? What’s that all about? What did they think they were doing? But I’m also happy to see the kid holding a glass of wine, it’s more often beer that they’re overtly targeting.

But I especially find the single word “Duh!!!” to be telling. It’s basically an insulting “fuck you” to most of the rest of the world, whose culture and long-standing traditions see nothing wrong with a world in which children are exposed to alcohol in the home as an ordinary part of life. It’s only in recent years that Belgian schools stopped serving table beer to students. Watered-down wine on the table in Italy or France is just part of a normal Friday. But we know better, and we’re happy to tell not just you, but the rest of the world how to live, too.

All the fuss is over a “new” study entitled The Prospective Association Between Sipping Alcohol by the Sixth Grade and Later Substance Use in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Uncharacteristically, the full text is available online.

As you can see from the headlines, parents beware. You better not be giving your kids a sip of alcohol, or you’ll be setting them down the path to ruin. The study apparently shows “that children who had sipped alcohol by the sixth grade were about five times more likely to have a full drink by the time they were in high school and four times more likely to binge drink or get drunk.” Uh oh. CNN reports:

The study involved surveys of 561 middle school students in Rhode Island over a three-year period. A little under a third of the students said they had sipped alcohol by the start of middle school, with most of those saying they got the alcohol from their parents at a party or on a special occasion.

Even when factoring out issues that could encourage problem drinking down the road, such as how much their parents drink, a history of alcoholism in their family or having a risk-taking personality, the children who sipped were more likely to be drinking in high school, said [Kristina] Jackson[, one of the co-authors of the study].

Twenty-six percent of the kids who had sipped alcohol said they had a full drink by the ninth grade versus under 6% for the kids who never sipped alcohol, the survey found. Nine percent said they had binged on alcohol (had five or more drinks at one time) or gotten drunk versus under 2% for the non-sippers.

Nothing more scientific than giving kids a survey and then factoring out a host of things that may or may not have any influence on whether or not they’ll drink later in life. They make drinking in high school sound like it’s a Satanic orgy, but it’s a pretty normal rite of passage for most people. If you didn’t have a few drinks at some point during your high school years, there’s probably something wrong with you that this study definitely didn’t factor in.

The WebMD version of the story notes that 3 out of ten students told them “they’d had at least one sip of alcohol” and that “[i]n most cases, those sips were provided by parents, often at parties or special occasions.” And because of that “[b]y ninth grade, 26 percent of those who’d had sips of alcohol at a younger age said they’d had at least one full alcoholic drink, compared with less than 6 percent of those who didn’t get sips of alcohol when younger.” Even with their vague controls, I still don’t see any clear causation. 6% vs. 26% and 9% vs. 2% don’t seem like an earth-shattering differences, with less than 600 people in one geographic area. I can think of dozens of reasons that might account for why this occurs, and the lead researcher even says as much, but of course that doesn’t make it into the headline. Jackson said. “The findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at an early age are to blame for teen drinking” and “[w]e’re not trying to say whether it’s ‘OK’ or ‘not OK’ for parents to allow this.” So what are you saying, if not just that? Why isn’t the headline that the “findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at an early age are to blame for teen drinking?”

WebMD continues. “She noted that some parents believe that introducing children to alcohol at home teaches them about responsible drinking and reduces the appeal of alcohol. ‘Our study provides evidence to the contrary,’ Jackson said,” contradicting her previous statement. But this is the problem I talked about a few days ago in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, which made a compelling argument that studies in isolation, out of context and on their own are almost meaningless. This is especially true, because of course there are studies that show just the opposite. For example, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Heath “found that children who drank with their parents were about half as likely to say they had alcohol in the past month and about one third as likely to admit to binge drinking (having five or more drinks in a row) in the previous two weeks.”

But here’s where I think the judgmental parenting advice kicks in, despite her insisting that is not the intention. Jackson states near the end of the article that “giving sips of alcohol to young children may send them a ‘mixed message.'” Sure, but you don’t have any idea of the context of the circumstances sufficient to make that claim, do you? If you assume that a parent just handed their son or daughter a drink, let them sip it, and then walked away, maybe she could make such a claim. But that scenario is pretty hard to imagine. There would undoubtedly be a discussion. There would be context, a talk about what was taking place, questions and answers, learning might even be part of it, which is why drawing conclusions about 561 such events without any context makes it so difficult to say those incidents caused future behavior in such a demonstrative way or were the proximate cause of it.

She finished with this sage bit of wisdom. “At that age, some kids may have difficulty understanding the difference between a sip of wine and having a full beer.” Only if parents let that be the case. Only if no discussion takes place. Only if the parents are complete idiots. Only if she thinks kids are really, really stupid. The most common age for the first sip was 10, with 26% of those surveyed. That’s my daughter’s age. She definitely knows the difference between a sip and a full pint glass. And frankly, I think she could make out the difference between 16 ounces of liquid and a teaspoon’s worth when she was much, much younger than that.

In the discussion section of the “study” the message turns from reporting to advice, and to telling me how I should approach my parenting:

Our findings underscore the importance of advising parents to provide clear, consistent messages about the unacceptability of alcohol consumption for youth. Offering even a sip of alcohol may undermine such messages, particularly among younger children who tend to have more concrete thinking and may be unable to understand the difference between drinking a sip and drinking several drinks. In addition, parents should be encouraged to secure and monitor alcohol in the home, and given our reports of accidental consumption, parents should monitor their own beverages—children may intentionally or, as our data show, inadvertently take a sip. Of note, children who report having been asked by adults in the home to fetch or pour alcohol are shown to have greater odds of sipping alcohol. Messages to parents about keeping their children from sipping alcohol may need to be provided via preventive intervention or community education, particularly because some parents report feeling pressured by other adults to allow their children to have sips of alcohol at social events.

She’s basically telling parents to make sure to keep a wall up separating children from interacting with anything found in the adult world. It’s a frequent position taken by prohibitionists, that children should never see their parents drinking alcohol, should never see alcohol of any kind, whether ads for it or even walking by it in grocery stores, so convinced are they that one peek will alter their behavior and forever corrupt their futures and turn them into alcoholics. You may recall Alcohol Justice’s recent temper tantrum that children could be exposed to as many as four minutes of beer advertising during the four-hour Super Bowl spectacle, and what a disaster that would cause.

It’s hard to not bring up the fact that the study was part of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. Their “mission is to promote the identification, prevention, and effective treatment of alcohol and other drug use problems in our society through research, education, training, and policy advocacy.” So it’s not to find out if there are problems, identify what positives and negatives exist, but they set out with the premise that only problems exist and what can they do about it. That’s what prohibitionists do. That is not science. It’s advocacy. Also, the study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who similarly starts with the premise of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. It’s right there in their title. They owe their existence to Richard Nixon, who “signed the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 on December 31, 1970.” It had been spearheaded by “Senator Harold Hughes, a recovering alcoholic who championed the cause of alcoholism research.” There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it does show that what they’re interested in studying is not health or any balanced study of alcohol, but are focused on “abuse and alcoholism.” It’s what they’re interested in and are looking for. When you set out to find problems, you’ll find them. It’s in your charter and self-preservation will help you along the way. It’s the same as when prohibitionists claim that any study undertaken by someone with ties to the alcohol industry is tainted or biases their findings. This is exactly the same, but curiously that fact is conveniently ignored when it suits their agenda.

But whether stated or not, the reason for the study seems to be embedded in how it’s being used, by both the media and the researchers who created it, to create another tool to stop people from drinking, starting with the children. Even though the author clearly states that the “findings don’t prove that sips of alcohol at an early age are to blame for teen drinking,” she’s still willing to dole out all sorts of advice on how parents should do their job, even offering this soothing balm lest what you just read started you panicking. “‘I don’t think parents need to feel that their child is doomed, ‘Kristina Jackson, one of the co-authors of the study, said of parents who already let their kids have sips of alcohol.” Whew, that’s a relief. After spending countless hours creating a study and analyzing its results, using headlines that suggest one sip and little Johnny or Susie are destined for the life of an alcoholic, which ultimately found no causation, they’re still talking to the press about how to keep your loved ones from drinking in high school and telling me and every other parent how to raise our children. It’s a little bit insulting.

“I think the most important thing is to make sure that children know when drinking alcohol is acceptable and when it is not,” said Jackson.” That’s her final takeaway at the bottom of the CNN piece. Her advice is I should make sure my kids know when it’s okay to drink and when they shouldn’t, I guess under the assumption that before this I didn’t know that. My house, and everybody else’s apparently, were a free for all, because I didn’t know my ten-year old and my newly minted teenager aren’t supposed to drink alcohol just yet. Thanks for that. I don’t know what I would have done without this study. Because if after all that, “the most important thing” my kids need to know is they’re not allowed to drink, they sure wasted an awful lot of time and money. My kids know that. I’m willing to bet yours do to.

But the very last thing she says is this howler. “One theory is that some of these children are getting a message that drinking is okay, especially when it is offered by the parent,” she said. Hilarious. I’m sorry to be the one to tell her this, because maybe she doesn’t know, but drinking is okay. My kids know drinking is okay. They watch my wife and I drink all the time. They also know that they aren’t allowed to drink themselves until they’re 21. And they can’t drive until they’re 16. And they can’t join the military until they’re 18. They know all these things, and much more. Is that because they’re budding geniuses or my wife and I are amazing parents? Well, I don’t like to brag … but no, it has nothing to do with any of that. Our kids do well in school but are fairly typical, and I see us as similarly run of the mill parents, trying our best to raise ’em up right. I have a personal theory that each of us deeply remember the wounds inflicted upon us by our own parents and everybody’s approach to parenting is a determination to not make the same mistakes that our parents did, because there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. In the process, each of us makes all new mistakes, that our kids in turn will be sure not to do my grandchildren. It’s the cycle of parenting mistakes. I think the most any parent can hope for is do their best, and try to teach their children how to be their own person; a productive, self-reliant member of society. And there’s definitely no one right way to accomplish that. But I sure wish the prohibitionists and so many other self-professed do-gooders would stop telling to me how to be a parent. It really is getting out of hand. I’d like to ask my son Porter to fetch me a beer, but I’m afraid child services might intervene because I’m putting him at risk for becoming a drinking high schooler since seeing a beer, and especially me enjoying it, might give him the idea that drinking a beer is okay.

Top 50 Craft Breweries Infographic

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This is pretty cool. Vinepair took the list the BA released on Tuesday, the Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2014, and created an infographic showing where the top fifty are located. It’s interesting to see the pockets where there are only smaller breweries, those ranked 51-3000+. It does appear that the top 50 are concentrated in a few broad areas.

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Click here to see the infographic full size.

USDA Dietary Guidelines Under Fire Again From Prohibitionists

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Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, updates its quinquennial Dietary Guidelines. They’re described as providing “authoritative advice for Americans ages 2 and older about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.” Since the last guidelines were published in 2010, it’s time for the new ones, and they’ve been proposed and are are now open for comments before being finalized.

In the 2010 Guidelines, a change was made to the structure of the recommended amounts of alcohol people should consume, if they’re going to enjoy drinking alcohol and are, of course, of legal age. At the time, the government took the radical view, to prohibitionists, that:

The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects, depending on the amount consumed, age, and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol. Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

I may not agree with some of the characterizations in the last sentence, but it does serve to demonstrate how conservative the guidelines are, and that they’re not cavalierly telling people to start drinking. Plus, unlike some anti-alcohol groups, I’m not trying to willfully mislead people about what they say. They also have a handy chart of key definitions.

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So what that second definition means is that if you’re a woman, you can enjoy 3 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as you don’t have more than 7 during the same week, and you’ll be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. A man, however, may enjoy 4 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as he doesn’t have more than 14 during the same week, and he’ll likewise be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. That, in effect, relaxed the “1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men” axiom that had been in place for a long while. When those changes made the rounds five years ago, the prohibitionists threw a temper tantrum and accused the government of all manner of bias and corruption, which is almost funny given how conservative they really are.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for 2015, are now going through the comment period, and once again the prohibitionists are apoplectic. Alcohol Justice, for example, whines that the government “proposes a risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking, and promotes drinking as a healthy dietary behavior. It suggests that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe, and that questionable claims of health benefits outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.”

So how honest is that statement? Let’s take a look. First, what is the “risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking” from 2010 to 2015? The “new” language is on Page 105 of 107, constituting the proposed guidelines for 2015.

2015 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption — Average daily consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, with no more than three drinks in any single day for women and no more than four drinks in any single day for men.

And here’s the old language below. Notice the difference? No? That’s because there really isn’t any. There are a few of the words that are different, numbers replaced by the word written out, some different punctuation, but that’s about it. The meaning is entirely the same.

2010 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is the consumption of more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week for men.

There is no shift. If anything, this version of the guidelines merely confirms changes made to the 2010 Guidelines. “Regarding alcohol, the Committee confirmed several conclusions of the 2010 DGAC, including that moderate alcohol intake can be a component of a healthy dietary pattern, and that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation and only by adults. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.”

AJ says the “Dietary Guidelines should recommend ways to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm, not increase it,” but of course that’s not at all what they say. That’s just more whining because they don’t like what the USDA is proposing. They didn’t like it five years ago, and they don’t like it now. They go on to claim that with “current and growing evidence regarding risk of disease and harm from drinking even low levels of alcohol, the Dietary Guidelines should include recommendations for Americans to drink less alcohol – not more.” Of course, that’s another misleading statement. They can, and often do, cite single studies that say what they want, but as detailed in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, most are not worth the paper they’re printed on, but they keep hammering on them because it makes for effective propaganda, especially in the school of “if you repeat a lie often enough ….”

AJ further believes that the proposed guidelines say “that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe.” But this mythical increase is just that, a fantasy. The 2010 guidelines said the same thing. There’s no proposed increase, just a confirmation of the last version. And guess what happened with the 2010 change? Nothing, that’s what. The country did not fall to ruin from people suddenly drinking too much because they believe the guidelines told people they should, or could.

Then they accuse the guidelines are based on “questionable claims of health benefits [which] outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.” What utter bullshit. Do you know what constitutes a “questionable claims of health benefits?” Anything that AJ doesn’t agree with. And how they define “known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption?” That’s easy, it’s one they like that agrees with their skewed world view. As shown, this is absolutely NOT “a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines,” but is virtually identical to the 2010 version. And their statement that there is not “sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift” is laughable because they’ll never except any scientific evidence that disagrees with or contradicts their dogma. Here’s how the USDA explains how they arrived at the alcohol guidelines.

As alcohol is a unique aspect of the diet, the DGAC considered evidence from several sources to inform recommendations. As noted above, moderate alcohol intake among adults was identified as a component of a healthy dietary pattern associated with some health outcomes, which reaffirms conclusions related to moderate alcohol consumption by the 2010 DGAC.

No matter how you slice it, there is nothing new regarding the alcohol guidelines in the proposed dietary guidelines for 2015. But to hear Alcohol Justice tell it, this is “a radical change,” despite being almost exactly the same as five years ago. This is their action plan for the faithful sheep that follow them, [with my rebuttal in brackets]:

THE PROPOSED CHANGE:

Without providing any explanation or evidence for a radical change [they do explain the reasons, citing that there’s evidence supporting their decision], the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee proposes to increase limits used to define “moderate” drinking. [No, they don’t. All they do is confirm the changes made five years ago.]

The current (2010) U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men (daily limits) [that’s not all they say, they also cite the weekly allowances]. In contrast, the proposed change would base these 1/2 limits on average rather than daily consumption and suggests it is safe for women to drink up to 3 drinks in a day and men up to 4 drinks in a day so long as the averages are not exceeded [exactly as they did in 2010]. This effectively triples (the daily limit for women and doubles (the daily limit for men). [Not this time, it doesn’t.]

Furthermore, the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle: “the U.S. population should be encouraged to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables …; moderate in low and non fat dairy and alcohol (adults).” [Oh, no! The horror. Frankly, what’s more surprising is that, given their findings that total mortality is improved with the moderate consumption of alcohol, they’re so conservative in their suggestions. But it makes sense in the context of anti-alcohol groups that throw tantrums any time their world view is challenged. But their statement that “the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle” is complete and utter nonsense, and could even be called grandstanding because the language of the proposed 2015 guidelines also includes this: “However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.” So it’s pretty crystal clear that the USDA is not recommending people start drinking “as part of a healthy lifestyle.” AJ just made that up.]

THE PROBLEM:

Since most adult drinkers in the U.S. don’t drink every day, the proposed change effectively encourages consumption right up to binge drinking levels, thus increasing health risk. [That identifies the problem with the definition of binge drinking, as I’ve written about numerous times. That’s the problem here, not encouraging people to drink moderately. After all, if they did, they might live longer. We wouldn’t want people to know that, would we?]

Binge drinking (4 or more drinks per occasion for women; 5 or more drinks per occasion for men) causes more than half of all alcohol related deaths each year in the U.S., and impairment and increased risk begin below those levels. The proposed changes are, therefore, dangerous for public health. [Again, that’s a problem with the definition of bingeing, which used to be more vague, making it hard to quantify. So it’s been narrowed over the years, and made easier to quantify, bringing more and more people into the specter of binge drinkers, artificially inflating statistics about its dangers.]

There are no randomized studies showing any health benefits from any level of alcohol consumption as well as no evidence that moderate drinking promotes a healthy lifestyle. [Poppycock. They’re hanging their hat here, one presumes, on “randomized” studies, but it’s unlikely even that’s true. The USDA itself in 2010, looked at meta-analysis of a wide range of studies, concluding just the opposite of AJ’s position. But AJ keeps ignoring that “evidence” because they don’t like it. It’s easier to just keep saying what they want to be true.]

It’s hard to know what to make of so dishonest a piece of propaganda as this is, raising unfounded fears, not to mention being littered with just out and out misinformation. It’s one thing to be in favor of promoting “evidence-based public health policies and organiz[ing] campaigns with diverse communities and youth against the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” but quite another to watch how that plays out in reality. “Evidence-based” seems to really mean anything they agree with and “the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” includes literally every single thing we do. I wish that was hyperbole, but I’ve never seen any action taken by an alcohol company that AJ didn’t find fault with, from donating cans of water to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there to their “‘charge-for-harm’ approach, which is based on the assumption that anyone who drinks deserves to be punished.” And another similar group stated at a 2013 conference that “they simply didn’t care about the public health impacts of taxes. They were in the game solely to get some of the tax revenue steered toward their organization.”

This is getting seriously out of hand. as anti-alcohol groups get bolder and more obviously prohibitionist, their divisiveness makes any meaningful discussion increasingly impossible. And unlike these prohibitionists, most people I know in the beer world, and the real world for that matter, recognize that while moderate drinking of alcohol is a good thing for a majority of adults, it’s not for everybody. Some people can’t handle it, and they often ruin it for the rest of us. Because those are the people that anti-alcohol folks always use to represent everyone who drinks, ignoring that they’re minority and that most of us can have a few drinks and not plunge the world into turmoil. But as long as they keep painting us as all the same, they’ll never be able to admit anything but an absolutist view of drinking, no matter how ridiculous that is, and no matter how ridiculous it makes them seem. When you start accusing the conservative USDA of ignoring science and encouraging people to start drinking, you’ve definitely jumped the shark.