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Drinking To Your Health?

Health Benefits of Alcohol Not Confirmed

Dateline: 06/28/99

Findings of a new study, conducted over a 21-year period, seems to contradict recent reports that moderate consumption of alcohol has significant health benefits. In fact, the opposite could be true.

A report published in the British Medical Journal indicates that men who have five drinks a day are twice as likely to die from stroke than non drinkers. Those men who drank an average of only two drinks a day had a higher risk of dying from all causes, compared with men who consumed fewer alcoholic beverages.

The 21-year study was comprised of 5,766 men aged 35 to 64 from various workplaces in Glasgow, Clydebank and Grangemouth, Scotland.

"The overall association between alcohol consumption and death is unfavorable for men drinking over 11 drinks a week and does not support the promotion of increased drinking for reasons of health," conclude a team of researchers led by Carole L. Hart, a research fellow at the department of public health at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Conflicting Studies

This new study conflicts with recent studies in the British Medical Journal that moderate alcohol consumption promotes coronary health and a study from Harvard's Medical School and School of Public Health that indicated that mild to moderate drinkers have a lower mortality rate than people who are abstinent.

These findings prompted the Wine Institute in the United States to lobby for the right to place labels on their products promoting the health benefit of drinking wine, which sparked off a controversy involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

One Senator asked the government to investigate whether the Wine Institute and senior federal officials conspired to develop government policy that promotes the health benefits of alcohol, which caused former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Robert Rubin to have the department "rethink" the approval of wine labels.

A Moot Question

Although some studies show that moderate alcohol consumption may boost heart health by raising levels of high-density lipoprotein (or "good") cholesterol, this new research indicates otherwise.

Not all recent research has pointed to the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, however. One recent study indicated that drinking alcohol regularly -- even at moderate levels -- could lead to cirrhosis, a liver disease normally associated with alcoholism.

Dr. Charles Lieber of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York conducted a study of people who had rich diets supplemented with minerals and vitamins. They were given a daily dose of alcohol that was less than the amount needed to produce intoxication. "After 18 days, subjects showed an eight-fold increase in liver fat, the pre-condition for cirrhosis," said Lieber. "When you burn alcohol, you are not burning fat."

For those who suffer from the disease of alcoholism, whether nor not moderate drinking has health benefits is a moot question. For most chronic alcohol abusers, drinking moderately is not a realistic option.

Health Issues Long-term drinking can bring about a myriad of related health problems.
Source: The study was published in the June 1999 issue of the British Medical Journal.
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