So, drink isn’t after all going to kill you after all

Drinks: Drinks
Location: England
Other: Opinion

In fact, quite the opposite. It’s going to help you live longer.

The latest report from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) was full of long medical words but its gist was simple: moderate alcohol consumption is good for your heart.

This, of course, is nothing new. Studies have been throwing up conclusions like this for the best part of 50 years – it’s just that assorted health groups have tended to ignore them because the don’t fit with their ‘all alcohol is bad alcohol’ mantra.

The key word in the BMJ’s findings is the word ‘moderate’. Drinking per se is neither good nor bad – it’s the way in which people drink that is important.

A couple of years ago we ran a fascinating article by Erik Skovenborg, a Danish doctor who is a member of Alcohol In Moderation.

Among much high quality research, he made the point that there is far less alcohol-related harm in the Czech Republic than Russia, despite the fact that the former’s men drank twice as much alcohol per head as Russians.

The reason? Czechs tend to drink regularly but moderately, whereas the Russians drink rarely but heavily. Binge drinking, in other words, is the problem, not drinking.

I’ve seen some fascinating graphs showing the impact of alcohol on heart disease – long before this BMJ report was published. Essentially, it’s a J-curve. If you drink no alcohol, you are more at risk than if you drink 2-4 units regularly. Six units is about the same risk as none, and above that there are clear health negatives.

As the BMJ report rightly concludes, ‘it’s a more nuanced message’. Sadly, the one thing we know government (and the press) don’t have much time for in this area is complexity. They want simple messages, big headlines and, ideally, pictures of comatose 18 year olds on the streets of Liverpool.

They ignore the ‘respectable drunks’, happily tippling away on a couple of gins and half a bottle of wine every night, causing no trouble to the forces of law and order, but storing up no end of medical trouble for themselves down the line.

And before we get too smug, ask yourself whether you’ve tried recording your own alcohol consumption over a 12 month period? I have, and it’s scary.

This report is hugely welcome. A well-thought-out, balanced piece of research that acts as a much-needed counterpoint to some of the (clearly political) ‘studies’ that get funded by the anti-alcohol groups, who, it seems, will only be happy once we have introduced Prohibition.

What the report isn’t, however, is a piss-head’s charter, and if we take it as such we totally miss the point. The key is the word ‘moderate’.

Remember that the next time you’re doing lay-backs or opening that third bottle of Burgundy.

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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