Aug 28: While a vast majority of Studies in the last 30 years have indicated that moderate drinking of wine and even alcohol is good for heart and health, a new Study conducted based on 694 Surveys in 195 countries and recently reported in Lancet has shot down the benefits of moderate drinking and claims that no level of alcohol consumption improves health, writes Subhash Arora who believes the Study is too generalised and has lot of flaws and still recommends up to 2 glasses of wine a day for men and a glass for women everyday with a possible break of a couple of days in the week
My love for wine, though I had been a teetolar for the first third of my life took an upward jump after I attended two Medically oriented wine Conferences organised by Dr. Tedd Goldfinger of The Desert Foundation Arrizona, in Napa Valley in 2003 and2005, where some of the top doctors from the US. London and Australia participated as Speakers and shared the results of various Studies on the subject. Many researchers like Dr. Curtis Ellison (Boston), Late Dr. Serge Renaud (France) who had jointly coined the term ‘The French Paradox’ in 1991 on the CBS Programme ’60 Minutes’ were present with a line-up of luminous doctors , including the President of the American Medical Association were present at the Conferences that also showcased wines from napa and Oregon.
The consensus was simple- up to 2 glasses of red wine improved the heart condition and several other vital health components like BP, Diabetes type 2, Dementia. These glasses ought to be 125 mL and 12.5% alcohol by volume. Resveratrol and other anti-oxidants were the protagonists. The Studies on the subject took off and for the next decade or so, there were over a hundred studies all revolving around the health aspect of wine-especially red. There were even cases of fudging the results by some unscrupulous scientists greedy for big grants.
Of course, the key factor was the quantity. Drinking in moderation was the key. No one could deny that binge drinking (one could die too) was not the way to go; and the perennial question of how you can stop drinking after a couple of glasses. Women were recommended a glass daily because of their metabolism. There was a 10% chance of breast cancer for women. This came down to nil said Dr. Ellison who told me that by taking folates as a diet supplement, this risk became zero. The Conference findings were published after my first visit in 2003.
Cardiologist Dr Klatsky who published an article as early as 1974 that reported an inverse relationship between alcohol drinking and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), carried his point further at Napa and declared that "abstinence can be hazardous to some persons’ health". His group at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland analysed the different studies done on a total of 130,000 patients between 1978 and 1985, and their status in 1998 and concluded that those who had one or two alcoholic drinks a day had 32 percent less risk of dying of CHD than non-drinkers. Dr Serge Reynaud while corroborating these findings, added an extra dimension-his research indicated that a moderate intake of beer, too, lowered the risk from CHD. Incidentally Dr. Klatsky who was then over 80 years old had been drinking jone glass of red wine at dinner for the last 30 years and walked straight as a fiddle.
The trend of ‘churning out’ Studies with more and more benefits reached a pinnacle when scientists started ‘discovering ‘results like a glass of wine was equivalent of an hour of exercise- or such ludicrous findings. It was as if the wine industry were financing these studies. So much so that last year National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA sanctioned a budget of over $100 million for scientific clinical trials across 16 countries to establish once and for all the claimed health benefits of wine. However it was cancelled abruptly in less than a year with NIH refusing to release more funds because of the impropriety and debates it had raised.
For the last few years there had been a change in the ‘trends’ of results. As if financed by liquor companies which could not fathom the world’s infatuation with wine and hitting the Spirits market, more and more studies starting focusing on releasing negative results about wine-but more recently even that changed to even liquor. Anti alcohol lobby seems to have taken over and more of them focused on the cancerous effects and liver damage due to wine and alcohol.
Therefore it came as no surprise that a new Study published by Lancet magazine a couple of days ago, ‘inferred’ that no level of alcohol was seen as safe, based on 694 Surveys in 195 countries. It had ludicrous findings like the increase in the cases of tuberculosis due to alcohol (it probably included countries like India where the disease still exists in pockets unlike in the western countries.
The Study goes as far as to suggest that the governments should recommend people to abstain completely and perhaps take the leaf out of our Indian Constitution book which recommends the States to ban alcohol completely. This reminds me of a video clip by a Muslim comedienne- she says she does not drink alcohol as it’s against religion. But she takes ‘Ecstasy’ (rich person’s love drug) since there is nothing mentioned about it in Quran!
Many professionals who have been either involved in such earlier studies or are in the know, find laughable flaws. "The major message is there are more people who abuse alcohol than benefit from it," said Michael Apstein, a gastroenterologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School and also writes about wine. "That's not the issue. The issue is, is there any benefit to moderate drinking? For that, this study was terrible, "according to Wine-Searcher. He also points out that the 195 countries studied are not culturally or economically similar, so the effects of alcohol cannot be defined unilaterally.
The Lancet study's senior author, Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor of global health at the University of Washington, concedes, "it's a very small risk at one drink a day. It goes up when you go to two drinks a day. It all depends on all the other risk factors that the individual has, as well. For a given individual, having a drink a day may not hurt them. But people should no longer think that a drink or two a day is good for you. What's best for you is to not drink at all."
More importantly, the study could have impact on government policies, especially in the EU, where several member countries have passed strict laws cracking down on alcohol consumption in recent years.
For an earlier Article, please visit
Alcohol Forum supports US Dietary Guidelines
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