Scientists have known for a long time why higher consumption of wine has led to lower rates of heart disease and cancer. It has nothing do with the alcohol and everything to do with the grapes. However, that’s not how the alcohol industry has portrayed the health benefits of wine. New research that reviewed evidence from more than 50 studies that linked drinking habits and cardiovascular health, calls into question previous studies suggesting one drink per day to be healthy for the heart.
The alcohol industry and the media have portrayed one glass, even two glasses, of wine or beer as not only safe, but possibly healthy. They tell the public that there is only danger when the use of alcohol is excessive or abusive.
Alcohol, regardless of its type (i.e. beer, wine, liquor, etc) is a class A1 carcinogen which are confirmed human carcinogens. Alcohol consumption has been causally related with breast cancer for some time. Increasing evidence indicates a stronger association with neoplasms, though the risk is elevated for other types of breast cancers too.
In a previous study posted in the journal Neuroscience, lead author Megan Anderson, reported that even moderate drinking — drinking less during the week and more on the weekends — significantly reduces the structural integrity of the adult brain.
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Reducing the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may improve cardiovascular health, including a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure, according to a new multi-center study published in The BMJ and co-led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. The latest findings call into question previous studies which suggest that consuming light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol (0.6-0.8 fluid ounces/day) may have a protective effect on cardiovascular health.
The new research reviewed evidence from more than 50 studies that linked drinking habits and cardiovascular health for over 260,000 people. Researchers found that individuals who carry a specific gene which typically leads to lower alcohol consumption over time have, on average, superior cardiovascular health records. Specifically, the results show that individuals who consume 17 percent less alcohol per week have on average a 10 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease, lower blood pressure and a lower body mass index.
“These new results are critically important to our understanding of how alcohol affects heart disease. Contrary to what earlier reports have shown, it now appears that any exposure to alcohol has a negative impact upon heart health,” says co-lead author Michael Holmes, MD, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of Transplant Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “For some time, observational studies have suggested that only heavy drinking was detrimental to cardiovascular health, and that light consumption may actually be beneficial. This has led some people to drink moderately based on the belief that it would lower their risk of heart disease. However, what we’re seeing with this new study, which uses an investigative approach similar to a randomized clinical trial, is that reduced consumption of alcohol, even for light-to-moderate drinkers, may lead to improved cardiovascular health.”
“We can say with a level of certainty that moderate consumption of alcohol does not make hearts healthier because of a reduction in artery-harming inflammation, which is now being disproven,” said Roberto Cruz, PhD commenting on the study. Cruz emphasized that there are other lifestyle factors at play beyond wine consumption in nations such as France, that lead to healthier hearts.
In the new study, researchers examined the cardiovascular health of individuals who carry a genetic variant of the ‘alcohol dehydrogenase 1B’ gene, which is known to breakdown alcohol at a quicker pace. This rapid breakdown causes unpleasant symptoms including nausea and facial flushing, and has been found to lead to lower levels of alcohol consumption over time. By using this genetic marker as an indicator of lower alcohol consumption, the research team was able to identify links between these individuals and improved cardiovascular health.
Cancer is another issue. For every 200 women, 20 are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime. If they all drank 1.5 units every day, an extra one woman would develop cancer because of alcohol, research suggests. Breast cancer was the most common cause of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in women, accounting for approximately 6,000 deaths annually, or about 15 percent of all breast cancer deaths.
“Alcohol is underestimated as a cause of cancer in many parts of the world,” said Dr Paolo Boffetta of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France.
“A sizeable proportion of cancer today is due to alcohol intake and this is increasing in many regions, particularly in east Asia and eastern Europe,” he added in an interview.
Karen Foster is a holistic nutritionist, avid blogger, with five kids and an active lifestyle that keeps her in pursuit of the healthiest path towards a life of balance.
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