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Conflicting Reports


Thursday, February 26th, 2009 Conflicting Reports

“A little alcohol can be healthy” according to a BBC report (09 01 08). Yet a little more than a year on, other studies differ in opinion. Inexcess would like to explore why this may be the case and to what extent do the political aspects of heath come to the fore?

Also today, as an organisation we have reviewed two articles covering the issues surrounding women drinking low to moderate levels of alcohol and the increase risk to cancer. (Please visit site) and from that point of view, it would be useful to keep this report based on differing opinions with regards to the benefits of alcohol.

However, getting back to the concept that a little alcohol consumption will have medical benefits, it would now be pertinent to evaluate the evidence and also look at other reports and the information portrayed that are giving very mixed messages.

It has been suggested that alcohol combined with a healthy active lifestyle could improve an individuals lifespan.

A European Heart Journal study indicates that the combination can indeed cut the risk of heart disease.

A Danish team found people who led an active lifestyle were less prone to heart disease - but the risk was cut still further if they drank moderately.

However, UK experts warned people should not be encouraged to drink, as too much alcohol can be very damaging.

The significant point to be made goes as follows: Why does British research always appear to be more gloomy than our European counterparts and are the so called experts playing party politics based on fear tactics?

The research conducted followed approximately 12,000 men and women for nearly 20 years, during which 1,242 died from ischaemic heart disease (IHD).

Their findings suggested that people who did not drink or participate in any exercise posed the highest risk of heart disease. Significantly 49% higher than people who either drank, exercised or did both.

When comparing people who took similar levels of exercise, they found that those who drank moderately - one to 14 units of alcohol a week - were around 30% less likely to develop heart disease than non-drinkers.

This finding held good for people who were completely inactive, through to those who took vigorous regular exercise - with the overall risk declining as exercise levels increased.

In another article (07 01 07) it was suggested that people who suffered from high blood pressure did not have to be teetotal and actually may benefit from a regular drink.

Moreover, men with hypertension reduced their risk of a heart attack by having a drink or two a day, the study in Annals of Internal Medicine found.

In contrast however, Judy O’Sullivan of the British Heart Foundation said: “With alcohol consumption there is a fine line between benefit and risk.

“This study concluded that drinking alcohol in moderation is safe for men with high blood pressure. However, alcohol should not be used as a medicine and those who are teetotal do not need to start consuming alcohol to benefit their heart health.

“It should be remembered that drinking to excess carries serious health risks.

“If you want to improve your heart health our advice is to avoid smoking, eat a balanced diet low in salt and saturated fat and take regular physical activity,” she says.

Moving on, another headline suggests that alcohol makes fruit healthier (20 04 07). A study carried out indicated that whilst strawberries are good for you, having them in a cocktail may make them healthier. This is because the fruit contains compounds that can protect against cancer, heart disease and arthritis. The benefits detailed are that having the fruit in alcohol ie a daiquiri, boosts the antioxidant properties according to the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

Notwithstanding, nutritionists argue that the ‘detrimental effects’ may well cancel out the benefits.

Notably, the researchers, from the Kasetsart University in Thailand and the US Department of Agriculture Research Service, were actually looking for more effective ways of keeping fruit fresh during storage.

It was identified that treating strawberries with alcohol enhanced the antioxidant capacity within the fruit - which boosts the fruit’s power to neutralise destructive molecules called free radicals - by a third.

But Dr Frankie Phillips of the British Dietetic Association said: “It’s well known that some preparation of fruit and veg can enhance the availability of nutrients and other plant chemicals including antioxidants.

“For example, cooking tomatoes or stir frying pepper facilitates availability of the lycopene and beta-carotene they contain.

“That’s why the five-a-day message states to include a variety of fruit and veg as fresh, frozen, juice, dried and canned, and encourages different preparations.”

She added: “Whilst this study suggests that consuming strawberries with alcohol increases the antioxidant capacity, there are clearly detrimental effects of consuming alcohol in terms of cell damage.

“So any potential antioxidant benefits may be cancelled out by the potential liver damage caused by too much alcohol.

“Our advice is to enjoy summer berries but don’t expect a panacea in the form of a strawberry daiquiri.”

Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen molecules which damage DNA and cell membranes.

Finally, it would be pertinent to assess the merits of alcohol in relation to the painful arthritis.

A Swedish investigation revealed that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol each day, may protect against arthritis. Moreover, in the Swedish report, mice whose water contained 10% alcohol had a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Although the team could not identify how much alcohol was needed to have the same effect on humans.

Here it comes!! “UK arthritis experts cast doubt on the relevance of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study findings for treating human disease.

Low or moderate alcohol intake has been shown to benefit people in a number of ways, such as lowering the risk of heart disease.

But drinking too much causes complications including liver damage.

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