Low alcohol alternatives: A promising strategy for reducing alcohol related harm
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Background: Less than 1% of the beer market in British Columbia comprises beers with an alcohol content below 4%, despite the success of low alcohol beers in other countries, e.g. Australia. A small experimental study is described in which male students were given either unmarked low alcohol beer (3.8%) or regular strength beer (5.3%) to investigate their enjoyment and subjective intoxication. Methods: Thirty-four male students who reported drinking 5 or more beers in 1 day at least once in the last month volunteered for the study. In each drinking session, small groups of between 6 and 10 students consumed two servings of beer while playing dominoes. Each subject was his own control in the experiment by attending two group-drinking sessions, drinking a different beverage each time. The different beers were given in balanced order with half the subjects in each group drinking each type of beer. Standard measures of subjective intoxication and enjoyment were used. Blood alcohol levels were tested before, during and after drinking. Results: Although significantly higher blood alcohol levels were obtained with the higher strength beer (means of 0.026 versus 0.033 mg/100 ml at the end of the study, p < 0.001), (i) most participants reported enjoying the two sessions equally or preferred the low alcohol beer session, (ii) most did not report feeling different between the two sessions and (iii) only about half correctly guessed which was the higher alcohol content beer. There was a preference, however, for the taste of the stronger beer. Conclusion: We conclude beer drinkers cannot readily distinguish low and regular strength beers and can enjoy socializing equally with either. We recommend taxation strategies to create incentives for the manufacture, marketing and consumption of low alcohol alternatives. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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