Many of you have heard or read that moderate alcohol may be beneficial to your health. Here is an example of a CNN report from December 1997: “A Drink A Day Keeps The Grim Reaper Away.” It stated that “researchers report that modest drinking is, on balance, healthful and alcohol’s ill effects are offset by alcohol’s benefit to the heart.”
As a physician, it was important to me to go to the scientific literature myself to examine the evidence before I would start advising patients, as some doctors have, that alcohol be used for medicinal purposes.
First, I obtained the original research paper printed in the New England Journal of Medicine, December, 1997. Then, I did a literature search of all the articles that have been published on alcohol in the last three years. What I found was quite surprising, considering all the popular press coverage of the beneficial and medicinal properties of alcohol. The largest and longest study to date was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 1997, and was entitled “Alcohol Consumption and Mortality among Middle-aged and Elderly U.S. Adults.”i
It followed nearly 500,000 individuals for nine years and reported a 20% decrease in mortality for those aged 35 to 70 during the study period for those who consumed at least one alcoholic beverage per day as compared to non-drinkers.They attributed nearly all of the lower death rates to medicinal effects of alcohol in protections against cardiovascular disease.
From a purely medical point of view, should physicians start recommending alcohol consumption to protect against heart disease and to promote good health? Many people have interpreted these findings to suggest moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages should be part of a healthy lifestyle.
After carefully studying the original research paper from the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) plus reviewing over 50 other alcohol related articles published in the medical literature in the last three years, I established the following six points that should be considered before using alcohol for medicinal purposes:
1. Alcohol is a well-established risk factor for numerous cancers. The NEJM study showed a 30% increase in breast cancer in women consuming as little as one drink per day. This added to the already known increased incidence of mouth, throat, esophagal, stomach, pancreatic, and liver cancer associated with alcohol consumption.ii The only reason that an overall decreased mortality rate was shown in the alcohol drinking population was because many more people die from heart disease than cancer. How could any physician face a patient dying a slow, painful death from a cancer clearly linked to the alcohol that had previously been recommended as a way to decrease the chance of a heart attack by only 30%, when other less risky preventative measures are available without causing cancer as a side effect?
2. By analyzing only those aged 35 to 70, the study did not accurately reflect the lifetime risk of alcohol consumption. Alcohol-related injury is the number one cause of death in the 15 to 30 years old age group.iii
3. The mechanism by which alcohol gives cardiac protection may be harmful to other body systems. Alcohol appears to protect against heart attack in two ways. First, it reduces the build up of plaque in the blood vessels. Second, alcohol acts as a blood thinner that prevents clots from forming in the already narrowed coronary arteries, which is the initial event in most heart attacks.iv Interfering with the delicate balance in the blood clotting mechanism may be a dangerous thing. A few years ago, it was noted that aspirin had blood thinning properties that prevented heart attacks. The initial reports were so impressive that thousands of physicians voluntarily started taking aspirin daily as a part of a study of the long term benefits.
The research project was stopped prematurely when it was noted that the aspirin group was experiencing an unexpectedly high incidence of hemorrhagic stroke. While trying to prevent a heart attack by thinning the blood, some of these doctors died, or were permanently disabled by bleeding into their brains. Now most doctors only recommend aspirin to patients who have already had one heart attack, because the risk of a second heart attack is greater than the aspirin-induced stroke.
This example clearly points out the danger of interfering, as alcohol does, with the delicate balance of the body in such areas of blood clotting. In addition, while preventing certain types of heart disease, alcohol has been clearly linked to heart rhythm problems and cardiomyopathy leading to congestive heart failure.v
4. The 30% decrease in the death rate from heart disease attributed to alcohol may be achieved and surpassed by other, much less risky, methods. Numerous studies have shown that simple lifestyle measures can reduce cardiac risk by 50 to 70% without any of the harmful side effects documented with alcohol usage.vi
5. The study’s methodology and analysis bring into question the validity of the conclusions. It must be understood that all studies relating health risk and alcohol consumption rely on voluntary questionnaires being accurately completed. No one actually follows the patients around to document their consumption or verify their claims. One of the editors of the NEJM who wrote an editorial response pointed out that the study group reported their yearly alcohol consumption to be only half of US government per capita estimates based on industry production and sales.vii
He pointed out that either this study group did not reflect average American drinking habits, or they did not accurately complete their questionnaires. Anyone who has ever worked with alcoholics knows they are often in denial regarding their drinking patterns and some may have inaccurately placed themselves in the non-drinking groups statistics, which would have affected the validity of the conclusions.
Additionally, the NEJM study excluded from their statistics without explanation 32,000 individuals who had cancer or cirrhosis at the start of the study. These diseases are known to be closely linked to alcohol consumption and their exclusion could markedly effect mortality rates.
6. Beyond heart issues, alcohol has physiologic implications on virtually every major body system. When reading in the lay press one could easily conclude that most medical research in recent years has focused on the positive medicinal value of alcohol on the heart. In reality, a totally different picture emerges. A search of all English language research papers in the scientific literature in the last three years revealed 355 published articles of which 48 were review articles. Review articles summarize and condense research findings on a related topic. Of the 48 review articles, 44 were clearly dealing with the toxic affects of alcohol, and of the remaining four which dealt with the cardiac benefits, each article clearly included in the negative side effect. Here is only a sampling of statements taken from the abstracts of these articles.
Continue reading: http://amazingdiscoveries.org/H-deception-health_alcohol_wine_heart_risk