Distilled Spirits Council Science Advisor Testifies at Dietary Guidelines Virtual Hearing Against Proposal to Change Moderate Drinking Definition

 Proposal is “seriously flawed” and “not supported by preponderance of evidence”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dr. Sam Zakhari, science advisor to the Distilled Spirits Council and a former division director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, testified today during the Dietary Guidelines virtual hearing in opposition to the controversial proposal to change the Dietary Guidelines’ definition of moderate drinking.

Under the proposal by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the 30-year Dietary Guidelines definition of moderate drinking for men would be reduced from up to two drinks per day, to no more than one drink a day.

Zakhari, a renowned alcohol researcher with more than 40 years’ experience studying alcohol and health, spent 26 years at the National Institutes of Health where he last served as Director of the Division of Basic Research, and Metabolism and Health Effects.

Zakhari stated, “the proposal to change the definition of moderate drinking is seriously flawed and is certainly not supported by a preponderance of evidence,” which is required by the Dietary Guidelines Charter to change a guideline.

He said that the Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Report, in fact, reaffirmed that “the preponderance of evidence shows that light to moderate alcohol consumption, as defined in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (up to two drinks a day for men and one for women), and in the absence of binge drinking, presents little health risk for most adults and is associated with reduced all-cause mortality.”

Zakhari called into question the scientific validity of the Committee’s proposal noting that the Committee’s systematic review of 60 studies included just one study that examined differences amongst men consuming one versus two drinks per day.

He stated, “the Committee’s reliance on a single study within its review to justify halving the daily guideline for men and contradicting the true preponderance of scientific evidence defies logic.”

He additionally pointed out that the Committee repeatedly violated its own published research protocol by basing their proposal on research that was specifically excluded from, or outside of the parameters of, the official systematic review of scientific literature.

Zakhari concluded his testimony by calling on USDA and HHS to retain the definition of moderate drinking included in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines stating, “one study cannot change the preponderance of scientific evidence accumulated over more than forty years and reaffirmed by Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committees since 1990.”

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years.  Today’s virtual hearing provided an opportunity for the public to comment on the recently-released Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which includes a chapter on alcohol beverages.  USDA and HHS will consider the Committee’s Scientific Report, along with public and agency comments, as the Departments develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines.

Click here to read Dr. Zakhari’s testimony