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Posted: Thursday, March 18 2010. 14:19

Indian Study: Alcohol May Harm Indians

A study covering 4,400 drinkers and an almost equal number of non drinkers in ten cities to investigate the link between alcohol consumption and heart disease among Indians has revealed that even small amounts of alcohol consumption harms Indians, with even moderate drinkers having a 60% greater risk of CHD .

The study by doctors from AIIMS, Centre for Chronic Diseases, Public Health Foundation of India and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, challenging the cardiac benefits of alcohol and actually warning of the potential harm to Indians due to alcohol, is the largest study ever done on the subject, according to a report in Times of India.

Contradicting oft reported suggestions that a peg or two were beneficial, doctors have now reported that those who consumed even low level of alcohol were at 40% greater risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) than abstainers. The chances were as high as 60% among moderate drinkers and nearly 100% in heavy drinkers.

Dr Ambuj Roy, assistant professor of cardiology at AIIMS and a senior member of the team that performed the recent heart surgery on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly said, "Benefits of moderate alcohol consumption have been found among southern European populations from the Mediterranean region and Caucasians in Europe and North America. However, it clearly causes harm in Indians just like in African Americans."

The study categorized drinkers in three categories- heavy drinkers (who consumed more than 28 grams per day), moderate drinkers (14-28 grams per day) and light drinkers (less than 14 grams a day). One drink was equivalent to 14 grams of alcohol (equivalent to 120 ml of wine, 285 ml of beer and 30 ml of spirits), according to the researchers..

Dr. Roy explains that varying effect on different races could be genetic or also due to different drinking pattern. 55% of the people we studied were binge drinkers and had more than four drinks a day at one go. Such amounts can never be safe.

The methodology followed in the study does not appear to categorize drinkers who may be drinking wine regularly but moderately. As Dr. Roy concedes,’ the drinking patterns may account for the difference in results. In particular, Mediterranean drinking patterns are characterized by the use of daily constant amounts of alcohol- mainly in the form of wine which has been associated with protection against CHD as compared to irregular heavy or binge drinking that provides no favourable effect on CHD."

The study perhaps refers only to alcohol in peg measures- something which is normally not  done when describing anything relating to wine; its always a glass of wine. Moreover, the amount of alcohol in gms in a glass varies with the percentage of alcohol present by volume in wine-it usually varies from 11-15% ( a variation of over 35%).

With 150 million cases of whisky being consumed in India, well towering over the 1.4 million cases (this number would have been even much less when the study was done some time ago) consumed in metro cities, chances of wine being the only drink of choice with the subjects is highly unlikely. A city like Chennai, one of the cities apparently covered, did not even have wine available till recently!

Binge drinking in any form- even wine has been found to be harmful to heart in all the global studies, some even reporting sudden death. Therefore, it is not scientifically correct to include binge drinkers in the studies. A significant number of Indians don’t drink during the week but indulge in binge drinking over thee week-(binge drinking of  even non-alcoholic strong coffee or even milk is harmful!).

With due respect to the research team, prima facie, it does appear that wine was not a part of the study and DelWine openly challenges the research team to release evidence that moderate wine drinking was harmful for Indian hearts when most global studies have shown several benefits using much bigger subjects studied over longer periods.

We continue to recommend regular drinking a glass or two of wine, preferably red and with meals, but suggest you discuss with Dr. Roy or any other progressive cardiologist  who has an open mind before making it the healthy habit. We need to wait till such studies are conducted with subjects drinking only wine.-editor.   



kskarnic Says:

Dear Sir, Thanks for the clarification. Let us hope that scientists do their research without any preconceived ideas and with best intention of health of the community

Posted @ March 23, 2010 12:40


Subhash Arora Says:

Dear K S Karnic

I appreciate your comments, concern and the suggestion. You have apparently misunderstood my article. I am not challenging the study-only the methodology. I am challenging the implicit assumption that the subjects were drinking wine. I am questioning the methodology that may have measured the drinks per week but not the frequency or regularity. I also have a hunch-from my presonal experience of friends around me who drink alcohol, that people in India tend to under -declare the amount they drink. One peg/shot  of whisky is often laced with 120 mL!!!

Unfortunately, Indian Wine Academy or delWine does not have the resources to conduct an idependent study as you kindly suggest. AIIMS has the funds, time and the case studies to follow up on such subjects. I am trying to contact the lead doctors of the studies so I could go through it in detail. It would be easier for them to go through the results and try to pin-point the percentage of wine drinkers in the study and clarify.

Universally, studies have shown the benefits of anti-oxidants in wine, lower LDL and lower CHD problems, provided less than 2 standard glasses of wine are drunk (actually, even alcohol is at par with wine in most studies re CHD diseases). I cannot dispute the fact that we have different DNA but certainly high temperatures have nothing to do with it. I recently met an internationally known wine producer in Siclily where summer tempratures well cross 42 deg C. He drinks 400 bottles of red wine a year. At 70, his liver is 'certified' by the doctors as that of a 17 year old! Indian genes could surely differ than Sicilian, I grant you.

Incidentally, I am a passionate anti-smoker and persistently anti-alcohol and definitely pro-wine for its health proprties and it being a food product. In IWA or delWine, we never advocate anyone to start drinking wine even for health reasons. But our message to the 500 million -case beer and spirits drinkers is to switch to a moderate, regular drinking of wine with food as a natural lifestyle product. Cheers!

Posted @ March 22, 2010 13:10


kskarnic Says:

The study on the effects of alcohol by cordiologists of IIM and others has thrown some light on the long and continued use of alcohol in any form. But wine contains along with alcohol some nutrients and other elements which are beneficial to humans when consumed in limited quantity. India having tropical and subtropical climatinc conditions wine may also react in a different way compared to european countries. There can no dispute that climate particularly the temparature has deleterious effect on food and its consumers. Instead of challenging the openion of the some experts Delwine can if possible initiate studies to find out the actual facts that would either strengthen their claim,counter claim etc.

Posted @ March 22, 2010 12:05


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