“Statements by the Heart Foundation that there is “No Safe Level” of drinking beer, wine or spirits is, at worse, untrue and at best misleading”, says NZABC Executive Director Virginia Nicholls.

“The statements released by the Heart Foundation fly in the face of over 40 years of independent scientific research.”

“For adults who choose to drink, this sweeping statement doesn’t provide them with guidance on individual health risks in the context of everyday life.”

 “Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies since the 1970s report that light and moderate drinkers tend to live at least as long – or longer than non-drinkers.  Recent studies show this relationship holds even when separating former drinkers, from lifetime abstainers.”

“Everyone must evaluate the risks they face each day to inform their personal choices, from the foods they eat to the activities they enjoy and, of course, anyone with questions should speak to their healthcare professionals to better understand the impact of drinking on their individual health.”

“Claiming that any level of drinking for anyone, however low, is harmful defies common sense for the 81% of adults who choose to drink beer, wine and spirits in moderation [1].”

“Most adults who choose to drink do so in moderation, and for most adults any risk posed by the moderate consumption of alcohol is low, although for some people the better choice may be not to drink at all”.

“The beer, wine and spirits industry refute claims by the Heart Foundation that low and no alcohol products are being used to reach young people and attract them to the category.”

We are seeing changing trends with New Zealanders turning to low and no-alcohol beverages.

“A poll of 1,250 New Zealanders in December 2022 [2] found 56% (up from 47% in the preceding year) of respondents drinking low-alcohol beverages at least some of the time, and some of us prefer low alcohol beverages”.

“Research tells us that the vast majority of New Zealanders drink responsibly.  New Zealanders are drinking 25% less now than they did in the late 1970s [3].  Further, harmful drinking – particularly among younger drinkers – has also fallen.”

“The Heart Foundation statement analysis is largely based on a report by the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse that was released in January. This study attracted criticism at the time”.

“There is a substantial amount of scientific evidence that is not cited in the Heart Foundation Position Statement. For instance the WHO’s Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health does recognise the beneficial effects of low-level consumption on some CVD outcomes (“For ischaemic stroke and diabetes mellitus, the AAFs were negative, meaning that, overall, alcohol consumption has a beneficial effect on these diseases.”).

“The World Heart Federation issued a similar position statement last year.  It is important to note that the heart foundations in the UK sand USA continue to reflect low-risk drinking guidelines issued by governments and do not take the “no safe level” approach”.

The NZ Ministry of Health guidelines are available here [4].

[1] In November 2022 the NZ annual health survey NZs health and wellbeing:  the survey says that 81% of NZ adults (four out of five of us) are drinking beer, wine and spirits responsibly . (this is 2.1% fewer hazardous drinkers in the past 5 years).

[2] Curia Market Research December 2022

[3] Total NZ population 15 years and over total alcohol, 12 litres per person in 1978 – 8.6 litres per person in March 2023. StatsNZ Infoshare.

[4] The NZ Ministry of Health guidelines: Low-risk alcohol drinking advice to reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week; three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week.  And have at least two alcohol-free days every week.