What Big Alcohol Will Never Admit

dna
Okay, here’s yet another piece of legerdemain by the Alcohol Justice watchdogs supposedly keeping us in the alcohol business honest. I’ve been seeing this missive over the past week or so (since they tweet it every single day) that on its face seems damning.

AJ-never-admit

Here’s what they accuse us of. “Big Alcohol will never admit #1 http://bit.ly/1ddQYTy Young adults damage DNA with weekend alcohol consumption.” Oh, no! What won’t big alcohol admit? Good question, and since that’s the charge leveled at us, you’d think it would be clear what it is we supposedly keep denying. But clicking on the link takes you to a story on MNT — Medical News today — entitled Young adults ‘damage DNA’ with weekend alcohol consumption. The article is about a study done at the Autonomous University of Nayarit in Mexico that resulted in a article in the journal Alcohol, although curiously no link is provided to the original study. The study was entitled “Oxidative damage in young alcohol drinkers: A preliminary study,” and you can read the abstract online.

But I think what’s more important is that claim by Alcohol Justice (AJ) that we’ll “never admit #1.” So take a look at the link, Young adults ‘damage DNA’ with weekend alcohol consumption. What the hell is “#1?” It would appear to be the first claim made in the article, since there are two sub-headings, which is “Oxidative damage caused by alcohol consumption.” But the second part of AJ’s tweet is “Young adults damage DNA with weekend alcohol consumption,” and the title of the article’s second subheading is “Signs of DNA damage through alcohol consumption,” which seems closer to what AJ is claiming. But I don’t think I’m being too difficult in thinking that if you’re going to claim we’re burying our heads in the sand and not admitting some horror that you make that accusation reasonably clear.

But okay, they’re not able to communicate clearly. So let’s assume it’s the DNA section they’re referring to. Here’s what it says.

An additional experiment, called the comet test, was conducted to see whether the participants’ DNA was also affected by alcohol consumption. This involved taking out the nucleus of lymphocytic cells in the blood and putting it through electrophoresis.

The researchers explain that if the cells are faulty and DNA is damaged, it causes a “halo” in the electrophoresis, called “the comet tail.”

The experiment revealed that the group who consumed alcohol showed significantly bigger comet tails in the electrophoresis, compared with the group that did not drink alcohol.

In detail, 8% of cells were damaged in the control group, but 44% were damaged in the drinking group. This means the drinking group had 5.3 times more damage to their cells.

But here’s the kicker, in the final sentence of that section. “However, the investigators say that they were unable to confirm there was extensive damage to the DNA, as the comet tail was less than 20 nanometers. But the investigators say their findings still raise concern.” So us evil alcohol folks won’t admit this, but the researchers themselves say they can’t conclusively state what’s going on or even if there’s really “extensive damage to the DNA.”

Another report about this study from Basque Research, makes the point even more clearly.

To be able to confirm the existence of considerable damage to the DNA, the comet tail must exceed 20 nm, and that was not the case. “Fortunately,” the researcher pointed out, “but the fact is, there should not have been any damage at all because they had not been consuming alcohol for very long, they had not been exposed in a chronic way.” The means by which alcohol manages to alter DNA is not yet known.

Regardless of which part of this study AJ is attacking us with, the fact is, as is clear in the title of the study, Oxidative damage in young alcohol drinkers: A preliminary study, this is a preliminary study. And throughout it the study’s authors say this is the first study of its kind to look at this and that more research is necessary.

But we’re still the bad guys because we apparently won’t admit this, even though we’ve never been asked, as far as I know. Did AJ send letter to big alcohol, and they didn’t answer? So instead they turned to twitter to shame them?

This is what pisses me off about Alcohol Justice. They make this accusation that implies that the alcohol industry is doing something wrong, that we’re immoral and damaging children wantonly and maliciously. It’s insulting. And it’s untrue. It’s dishonest, the way the accusation is made. I don’t think they care that it’s so vague and unclear, or that upon closer examination it’s not even true. People just see the headline, assume it’s correct, and the damage is done. It may be effective propaganda, but how can an organization who claims their mission is to keep the alcohol industry honest use such incredibly misleading and dishonest tactics? By automatically painting us as the bad guys for refusing to admit some unknown and vague harm that no sane person would, it’s just an out and out attack.

This is despite the fact that this is about people under 21 drinking, something that should not be happening, and for which the people who make alcohol are not responsible. I personally believe it would be less of a problem if the minimum age was lowered to 18, because then the drinking would be out in the open, not driven underground, where abuse and problems aren’t addressed. That’s also the point of view of the Amethyst Initiative, an organization of over 130 heads of American colleges and universities advocating for lowering the drinking age.

But in the end, how can an honest dialogue be even possible when the approach so often taken by prohibitionist organizations is to accuse and attack. That doesn’t do anybody any good. But I doubt that Alcohol Justice will ever admit that.

Comments

  1. says

    I’m actually surprised that anybody found out about this inconclusive study. But great catch on calling out AJ for demanding that us Big Alcoholistas start admitting anything before the science.

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