Pu­ri­tan­i­cal lies about al­co­hol

There is strong ev­i­dence that it pro­tects against heart dis­ease

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - HEALTH - Dr. Gifford Jones

Are you be­com­ing as skep­ti­cal as I am about pub­lic in­for­ma­tion? Fake po­lit­i­cal news? Al­ter­na­tive facts about the state of the world’s econ­omy?

So, now I ask how hon­est is med­i­cal news? Of course ev­ery­one knows that consuming stupid amounts of al­co­hol is un­healthy. But pu­ri­tans and some doc­tors can’t ac­cept the proven fact that mod­er­ate amounts of al­co­hol can pro­long life.

Prof. Keith Scott-Mumby, an in­ter­na­tion­ally known U.K. ex­pert on al­ter­na­tive medicine, echoes what I have writ­ten over the years, that peo­ple who drink mod­er­ately live longer on av­er­age than tee­to­talers or those who drink to ex­cess. In fact, there are over 20 stud­ies that con­firm this. In court it’s a crim­i­nal of­fense to with­hold truth, so why doesn’t the same prin­ci­ple hold true in medicine?

Scott-Mumby points out that the lack of dis­cus­sion of the ben­e­fi­cial im­pact of al­co­hol has for years been a sys­tem­atic pol­icy of the U.S. pub­lic health es­tab­lish­ment. For in­stance, the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, which funded a re­search study on al­co­hol, for­bad a Har­vard epi­demi­ol­o­gist who par­tic­i­pated in the study from pub­lish­ing the health ben­e­fits of drink­ing!

There is strong ev­i­dence that al­co­hol pro­tects against heart dis­ease. Stud­ies show that it in­creases the good choles­terol HDL. Pos­si­bly more im­por­tant, it di­lates ar­ter­ies and makes blood platelets less likely to clot, de­creas­ing the risk of a fa­tal heart at­tack.

But Scott-Mumby says none of these facts were pub­licly re­ported when Larry King, the well-known TV per­son­al­ity, un­der­went a by­pass pro­ce­dure in 1987 af­ter a heart at­tack. Later, in 2007, he hosted a two hour PBS tele­vi­sion Spe­cial on Heart Dis­ease fea­tur­ing five ex­perts who talked about ex­er­cise, diet and smok­ing. But there was no men­tion that ab­sti­nence from al­co­hol was a risk fac­tor for heart dis­ease.

Scott-Mumby also re­ports good news for Boomers — the use of al­co­hol may pro­tect against de­men­tia. He cites the 2008 Re­search So­ci­ety on Al­co­holism Re­view based on the White­hall Study which an­a­lyzed 45 re­ports since the early 1990s. This showed that there were sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced risks of de­men­tia from mod­er­ate drink­ing. So, why don’t we hear more about this fact, par­tic­u­larly, when Alzheimer’s Dis­ease and other forms of de­men­tia are in­creas­ing?

He adds that the U.S. is not a heavy drink­ing na­tion, yet its health out­comes are poor, as it has al­most dou­ble the amount of di­a­betes, can­cer and heart dis­ease com­pared to the English who drink more.

I’ve of­ten writ­ten about the ad­van­tages of mod­er­ate drink­ing. But, ac­cord­ing to Scot­tMumby’s re­search, even se­ri­ous drinkers, the ones who drink six or more drinks daily, still live longer than tee­to­talers! And he claims that pu­ri­tans can’t stand this fact.

So what’s the mes­sage? Nei­ther Scott-Mumby nor I con­done the three mar­tini lunch, nor do we urge any­one to start

drink­ing al­co­hol. What we are both say­ing is that nei­ther ab­stain­ers nor doc­tors should dis­tort the truth of the health ben­e­fits of al­co­hol.

All too of­ten I have wit­nessed this at med­i­cal con­ven­tions. Re­searchers have de­tailed the many med­i­cal ben­e­fits of al­co­hol. But af­ter con­fir­ma­tion by sev­eral speak­ers, fi­nally one says, “But we must not in­form the pub­lic about this as it will re­sult in car ac­ci­dents, mar­riage dif­fi­cul­ties and other so­ci­etal prob­lems.”

But we don’t pre­vent the sale of cars be­cause some id­iots drive at 150 miles an hour. So I be­lieve it is hyp­o­crit­i­cal, dis­hon­est and maybe even crim­i­nal, to with­hold sci­en­tif­i­cally proven news about al­co­hol.

To­day it seems that truth, like com­mon­sense, is be­com­ing an un­com­mon com­mod­ity. The motto of The Har­vard Med­i­cal School at its found­ing was “Ver­i­tas”. I be­lieved this motto when I was a med­i­cal stu­dent there and I still be­lieve it to­day.

This med­i­cal jour­nal­ist is not, and never will be, an al­co­holic. So I en­joy a drink be­fore din­ner with fam­ily and friends. I be­lieve it’s one of the habits that keeps me re­laxed at the end of the day and also alive all these years.

Past ex­pe­ri­ence tells me that con­tro­ver­sial col­umns do not please ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing doc­tors. But so­ci­ety is in deep trou­ble when it skirts truth, tries to hide it or sim­ply ig­nore it. Facts are facts, and his­tory has shown that Ver­i­tas even­tu­ally wins.

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