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The Alcohol Health Myth

September 19, 2011

Refreshing to see the Heart Foundation and the Australian Drug Coalition release material that rejects the myth about small amounts of red wine being good for you. GPs for the most part have been laughing at the idea that alcohol can be good. More and more they have been suggesting to patients they might give up grog.

The truth is that even if it could be shown to be good for cardio health or delivering the antioxidants you get from eating an apple, the good is outweighed by the calorific impact. As my GP says, the calories in alcohol are all useless. They are programed to go to one place – around your belly.

Nobody can stop at half a glass anyway, once they open the bottle of sugary fluid, so the much-mooted health gain is swamped by the sugar hit. Like eating a desert. Now we know that the medical evidence for the health gain is non-existent.

I gave up alcohol two and three quarter years ago and my body fat fell from 19 to 13 percent measured by scanning.

As my GP says, you won’t win the obesity battle if you drink. The robust drinkers I know are all diabetic in their 60s.

A craving for alcohol is a craving for a sugar hit. Replace it with nutritious eating. Aim for a clear head and a relatively flat stomach.

When I once told a big gathering of secondary school youngsters they should never be pressured by peers into drinking alcohol I was surprised by the spontaneous applause. Not drinking is a valid option and they seemed to know it.

The message can be put more strongly with the health case for imbibing now relegated to the myth basket. It was always a weak proposition anyway.

  1. Durga permalink
    September 19, 2011 9:08 am

    Well Said Bob!

  2. Richie Gun permalink
    September 19, 2011 10:29 am

    Notwithstanding what seems like a good idea to you and your GP, the epidemiological evidence is overwhelmingly in support of the strong protective effect against coronary artery disease mortality in men who consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol compared with non-drinkers. So powerful is the effect that age-standardised mortality for all causes combined is lower in these categories of alcohol use compared with men who are total abstainers. (In women account needs to be taken of an increased risk of breast cancer with alcohol consumption.)

    • Gordon permalink
      September 27, 2011 4:49 pm

      This is just wrong. The last time I looked (admittedly in 2004) the Cochrane review of the epidemiological evidence concluded a positive effect for alcohol (not red wine in particular) at a level of 0.9 standard drinks – rather a lot less than one ‘normal’ glass of wine – drunk less often than daily.

      There is no way you could call that “moderate”. The other issues of course is that even assuming the protective effect for heart disease is made out (which Bob points out is now disputed by the Heart Foundation) there is no doubt alcohol is associated with increased risk of cancer. And having had one parent die of one and the other of the other, I’m pretty sure which of those two I would rather have take me – in due course.

  3. September 19, 2011 12:08 pm

    Bod, all I can say is: Damn!

  4. Matthew permalink
    September 19, 2011 6:57 pm

    Brilliant! Finally some sanity and common sense in this arena where so many hidden agendas otherwise operate. Add to this the fact that alcohol, per se, is a poison and the logic behind drinking becomes even more ridiculous. Well done

  5. John Little permalink
    September 20, 2011 7:21 am

    So why has wine been a constant in non-muslim civilisations down the ages. Surely if it was not doing its job, human-kind’s ingenuity would have twigged to that by now. (I am talking about wine with meals, not the mindless slopping of beer, shots, etc, for the express purpose of gettting intoxicated).

  6. Peter permalink
    September 21, 2011 10:42 am

    I have not read the Heart Foundation nor the Australian Drug Foundation research (there is no hyperlink) but the Mayo Clinic still seems to support the moderate ingestion of red wine
    (ref As for over drinking, I limit myself to just one glass each night, sipped quietly, and have no difficulty in stopping at one; it is just a matter of developing the abstemious habit. I also recently noted that the hearty Romans always watered down their wine (quite drastically in fact), so I also put a dash of water in the one standard glass and have quite taken to the taste of diluted red wine. I suspect the health lobbies are tarred with the puritan brush. Even if there were no heart benefits I always experience a light lifting of mood after one glass of red wine and a sense of joining in the ancient tradition of living with wine and these are little blessings in the monotony of life.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      September 21, 2011 12:12 pm

      Right about the Romans. And eloquently put.

  7. Richie Gun permalink
    September 21, 2011 1:52 pm

    On the Romans, I like this from Robert Harris’ book Pompeii:
    ‘I didn’t like to mention it earlier, Pliny, but are you sure you’re quite well?’
    ‘Too fat,’ wheezed Pliny, ‘That’s all.’
    ‘What do your doctors say?’
    ‘Doctors? I won’t let those Greek tricksters anywhere near me. Only doctors can murder a man with impunity.’
    ‘But look at you, man – your heart -‘
    ‘”In cardiac disease the one hope of relief lies undoubtedly in wine.” You should read my book. And that, my dear Pedius, is a medicine I can administer myself.’

    And on diluting wine, according to Hilary Mantel in ‘A Place of Greater Safety’, Robespierre’s one meal of the day consisted of fruit, coffee and wine well watered-down.

  8. September 23, 2011 9:38 pm

    Hi Bob…red wine healthy or not? I’ll would still rather embrace the overall sense of well-being it offers.

    However, there is part of this red wine story that doesn’t offer me much of a sense of well being. The photograph used with has been stolen and gone viral on the net. I presently have representatives in the US chasing up about 200 of the over 2,200 copyright infringements worldwide. You can see the picture here amongst my stock photography collection at Alamy:

    However, as an admirer and long term Labor supporter (we met many years ago when I was shooting Laurie Brereton’s election campaign) I would be happy to make an exception and allow you to continue to use the photograph in exchange for acknowledgment and a copyright notice. i.e Photo by Rob Walls © 2005

    Thanks and best regards…

  9. September 25, 2011 12:53 pm

    Is the saying: ‘don’t trust a man who doesn’t drink’ a myth too? I wonder.

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