Sorry, drink­ing still bad for you, say sci­en­tists

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - KATE KEL­LAND

LON­DON: Span­ish re­search ap­pear­ing to show that very heavy drink­ing can re­duce men’s risk of heart dis­ease has come un­der fire from sci­en­tists who say the study is flawed and should not en­cour­age any­one to drink more.

The con­tro­ver­sial study found that men who drank moderate, high and very high lev­els of al­co­hol had a lower risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease.

Many pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested that moderate drink­ing – usu­ally de­fined as a drink or two a day – can be a healthy habit, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to heart dis­ease risk.

But ex­perts have warned that heavy drink­ing can dam­age or­gans and lead to early death.

The Span­ish study, re­leased in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal’s Heart mag­a­zine late this week, as­sessed the al­co­hol in­take of 15 500 men and 26 000 women be­tween the ages of 29 and 69 who were asked how much they had drunk in the pre­ced­ing year.

Peo­ple were classed as non-drinkers, for­mer drinkers, low, moderate, high and very high drinkers. The lat­ter drank more than 90g of al­co­hol a day, equiv­a­lent to about a dozen drinks.

Fol­low­ing the pa­tients for 10 years and map­ping the num­ber of coro­nary prob­lems they had, the re­searchers said the over­all re­sults for men showed that drink­ing al­co­hol cut the risk of heart dis­ease by 30 per­cent, and that heavy drink­ing cut the risk even more than moderate drink­ing. No sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect was found in women. “Spain is the world’s third largest pro­ducer of beer and wine and its per capita con­sump­tion of al­co­hol places it sixth in the world. But it also has one of the low­est death rates from coro­nary heart dis­ease in the world,” the re­searchers wrote.

But they warned that ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, 76 mil­lion of the es­ti­mated two bil­lion peo­ple in the world who drank al­co­hol suf­fered ill health as a re­sult, and al­co­hol caused about 1.8 mil­lion deaths ev­ery year.

Robert Sut­ton, pro­fes­sor of surgery at the Uni­ver­sity of Liver­pool, said the study had “sev­eral flaws” and should not be taken to sug­gest heavy drink­ing could im­prove health.

“This... study was based on self-re­ported in­for­ma­tion in which those drink­ing more stated they had less heart dis­ease, but those drink­ing more would prob­a­bly be less likely to see doc­tors and have heart dis­ease iden­ti­fied,” he said.

Martin McKee, pro­fes­sor of Euro­pean pub­lic health at the Lon­don School of Hy­giene and Trop­i­cal Medicine, said that while there was ev­i­dence that moderate drink­ing could help to pro­tect against heart prob­lems, “the re­la­tion­ship be­tween al­co­hol and heart dis­ease is con­tro­ver­sial”.

“Cer­tainly, peo­ple should not be en­cour­aged to drink more as a re­sult of this re­search.” – Reuters

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