Increase in alcohol-industry funded research is a cause for concern, study suggests

The alcohol industry is increasingly funding academic research into the impacts of alcohol consumption—with some studies making claims about the health benefits of alcohol, new research suggests. The study found that since 2009, there has been a 56% increase in research funded by alcohol companies or affiliated organisations. The scale of alcohol industry sponsorship of scientific research raises concerns over the potential for bias, conflicts of interest and selective reporting of outcomes, the researchers say.

The research team from the University of York found just under 13,500 studies are directly or indirectly funded by the alcohol industry.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Su Golder from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: “Our study identified a worrying trend—While there has been a steep decline in the alcohol industry conducting its own research on health at the same time there has been an increase in the alcohol industry funding such research, by providing financial support to researchers or via alcohol related organisations.

“This allows alcohol companies to exploit a ‘transparency loophole’ as many people assume these organisations are charities and don’t realise the connection to the industry.

“While there are many legitimate fields for research funded by the alcohol industry—such as studies into ingredients and environmental impacts—their involvement in health research is particular cause for concern. Many of these studies make claims about the protective cardiovascular effects of alcohol and suggest that substance abuse problems are down to individual choices rather than industry behaviours.”

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