Lots of stir the last couple of days about the France's Ministry of Health conviction of alcohol as cause of cancer. I will be attempting to consolidate the most relevant information from the web to provide a balanced view of this development, and how it relates to moderate wine drinking.
If anyone is seriously considering this seriously, what comes packaged with the same research is this: apart from wine, the dangerous stuff is red meat, charcuterie and salt. “The risk of colon-rectal cancer rises by 29 per cent per 100-gramme portion of red meat per day and 21 per cent per 50-gramme portion of charcuterie.” Are people going to stop eating those? - not a chance! Are people going to be moderate about those? Yes, people who care, already are.
It's about balance and common sense. Wine has been shown to have positive impact on some aspects of our health, especially the heart. However, it also appears to increase chances of certain types of cancer. Like pretty much all drugs, it has positives and negatives.
When I asked a doctor about it, she pointed out that how you consume wine depends on your genetics. If you have family history of certain types of cancer, then you should be more moderate in your alcohol (not specifically wine) consumption. On the other hand, if you have a genetic pre-disposition to heart problems or dementia, then you should drink wine as the French do.
But some may think - is wine as sinister as smoking? Wasn't smoking as accepted a few decades ago as wine is today? And when the first studies came out, the tabacco industry were up in arms just like the wine industry is reacting now to the pronouncement by the French government. Well, I submit to you that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. Smoking has been overwhelmingly and conclusively proven to do vastly more harm than good, and not just to the smoker, but also to others who are exposed to the smoke.
I will be posting additional thoughts and facts to this blog as the situation evolves.
References to previous studies - both pro and cons:
1. Summary of variety of wine/health research in the last 30 years: http://www.beekmanwine.com/prevtopab.htm and http://www.winepros.org/wine101/wine-health.htm.
2. July 2008: Wine Spectator: http://www.winespectator.com/Wine/Features/0,1197,4519,00.html
3. May 2008: Cancer Institute of New South Wales, Australia: http://www.cancerinstitute.org.au/cancer_inst/publications/pdfs/pm-2008-03_alcohol-as-a-cause-of-cancer.pdf
Quote 1: According to published evidence from eight studies, moderate alcohol consumption corresponding to approximately two drinks of alcohol per day does not increase the risk of cancer in general. However, the average intake of approximately four drinks per day increases the risk of cancer by 22%. High alcohol consumption averaging approximately eight drinks per day increases the risk of cancer at any site by 90%.
Quote 2: In conclusion, alcohol is one of the most well established causes of cancer and causes a considerable burden of disease in terms of both mortality and morbidity. While the mechanisms of action of alcohol-related risks and benefits await further clarification, the overwhelming public health message is that high daily alcohol intake can have an adverse affect on health and for those who do drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation. While the total elimination of alcohol consumption is not realistic, there should be increased community awareness and understanding of the extent and impacts of ‘risk drinking behaviour’.
4. Nov 1991: "60 Minutes" segment on the "French Paradox" explaining why despite eating high-fat diet, the French remain free of heart disease:
Morley Safer found, in 1991, that the French may have lower rates of heart attacks because their diet is high in cheese and wine. Within weeks of this program, sales of red wine in the United States shot up 40%
The Jan 2009 follow-up video segment by "60 Minutes", re-affirming the validity of the 1991 segment, and claiming red wine extends lifespan. CBS News 60 Minutes explaining the substance called Resveratrol:
5. Feb 2009: the France's Ministry of Health releases the anti-alcohol warning, causing a storm. Here are the most interesting and active comment threads from the web:
Favorite quotes from comments around the web:
I think therefore I think I'll have another drink...
- André, Cranves-Sales, France, 18/2/2009 4:09
I will be totally ignoring this thread, in every way, on every day and for eternity as well.
- RICHARD.JONES | 19 FEB 2009 16:18:06
The cheese is next! High Cholesterol you know and then the country will simply cease to exist.
- ROCKET | 19 FEB 2009 18:03:56
Man should behave with moderation on everything including moderation...
- Mark Twain
The best way to avoid cancer: commit suicide.
- JOHN | 19 FEB 2009 18:59:41
I drink wine. To save jobs.
- Fripouille, at 02:14 on February 20th, 2009
Is life worth living? It's a question of the liver.
- French proverb/pun