Alcohol companies pay scientists $10 million to prove moderate drinking is healthy

Alcohol companies pay scientists $10 million to prove moderate drinking is healthy

VicesOctober 31, 2018 By Will Brendza

If staying healthy was as easy as having a drink a day, then America would be fit as a fiddle. Forget fruit, vegetables and lean meat – we can prevent heart attacks and strokes, with cocktails and beer? Count me in.

Who wouldn’t want to get on a diet like that?

It’s a diet that alcohol companies wouldn’t mind you getting on, either. Think of the sales they’d make if they could suddenly market their products as, “healthy”, “recommended by doctors.” I can see the ads now: Come and get your medicinal vodka, your prescription wine! A cocktail a day keeps the doctor away! Stay healthy, keep drinking!

Big alcohol companies would have more money than they’d know what to do with.

Which, was probably their exact line of thinking when they decide to fund a study on alcohol’s effects on human health. A big study. A decade-long international study that aimed to examine over 7,800 participants at 16 sites scattered around the world, and one they put a budget of $10 million towards.

And the cherry on top: they solicited the federal government to do it for them.

Using private foundations, industry companies like Anheuser Busch InBev and trade group like the Distilled Spirits Council, funded the National Institute of Health (NIH) to run this study. They found scientists who would support moderate drinking as healthy, got them on board and started shoving piles of cash at the experiment.

From there the industry’s involvement was described as “frequent”, maintaining email correspondence with several of the scientists throughout. Understandably, too. They were putting a lot of money into this research — they wanted to make sure they were getting the right results out of it.

Recently, though, the study was terminated. When the director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, became aware of the twisted nature of its funding he had no choice but to pull the plug. Saving the scientific integrity of the NIH and saving the public from getting fed a bullshit load of forged science.

Sadly, as outrageous as this is, it is far from uncommon. In fact, for big businesses that sell unhealthy products, it’s the modus operandi. The tobacco industry did the same thing with cigarettes, paying for scientific research that promoted smoking as healthy; and the sugar industry tried something similar, funding research that blamed fat (instead of sugar) for obesity.

It’s not so surprising, then, that the alcohol industry finally tried the same thing. They just got caught before their science came out and affected public opinion.

We can almost expect big business to try these kinds of things – to try and bend the system in their favor with the weight of their wallets. The real problem here is science and the integrity of scientists at large. Organizations like the NIH should be weary when the alcohol industry comes to them with a case full of cash, suggesting they do some research on alcohol…

In fact, they should probably be focusing on the studies that big alcohol doesn’t want them doing.

In any case, there’s no knowing whether or not daily drinking habits are actually good for us, but we can probably guess that one. In my experience, dietary advice that sounds too good to be true typically is.

And if it isn’t, someone probably paid for it.