All drinking bad, says new study

Shah Rukh Khan as the booze-loving Devdas.

Moderate drinking may not have the health benefits it was purported to have, according to a new study.

Published in reputed medical journal The Lancet, the study, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, concluded that drinking more than five glasses of wine or beer a week can harm you as much as smoking.

The analysis collected data from more than six lakh drinkers in 19 high-income countries.

The researchers found there was no clear risk threshold below which alcohol consumption was not associated with disease risk, except for heart attacks.

This means that those who just have the daily tipple are shaving off years from their life expectancy.

In the authors’ words, “No level of alcohol consumption improves health.”

However, the study noted that the recommended level of five glasses of wine a week did offer protection against non-fatal heart attacks.

But this was offset by the fact that even small amounts above that led to a multitude of cardiovascular risks like stroke, coronary diseases, heart failure, and fatal hypertensive disease.

To sum it up, levels of alcohol previously thought to be harmless are connected with earlier deaths.

What it all means: Alcohol is a global health problem and deserves policy interventions from governments, especially in countries like India where hard liquor is cheap, easily available and preferred over wine and beer.

Warnings

The Alcoholic Beverages Regulations of 2018, notified by FSSAI, lays down the following rule:

A statutory warning is required to be printed in English on liquor bottles. It can be repeated in the local or regional language.

The size of the statutory warning should not be less than 3 mm.

The warning: ‘Consumption of alcohol is injurious to health’. ‘Be safe---don’t drink and drive’.

In India, ‘one drink’ means 30 ml

The study says the safe limit of drinking was about 100 g of alcohol, or the equivalent of five drinks a week.

Having 10 or more drinks a week was linked to one or two years of reduced life expectancy, while having 18 drinks a week was linked to a life four to five years shorter.

In 2014, the World Health Organization released its Global Status report on Alcohol and Health.

It says the average Indian consumes about 4.3 litres of alcohol a year, which is 4,300 ml. The rural average is higher at about 11.4 litres.

PS: 100 gm equals 100 ml for spirits. In India, a standard drink is 30 ml. 

The French paradox

The idea of light drinking as healthy originated in the 1990s, when many researchers believed red wine was good for you.

This idea was known as the ‘French paradox’ — the observation that the French drank lots of wine, and despite eating a diet rich in saturated fat, had lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers have since discovered it is more than just their wine consumption that sets French people apart.

What’s moderate?

India has no guidelines on moderation.

India is one of the few countries which does not have a clear guideline on what constitutes light, moderate or heavy drinking.

The Indian alcohol market is one of the fastest growing in the world, and marketers worldwide are eyeing it. Also, India is the largest global consumer of whiskey.

The India National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre and Alcohol Web India put out some tips for lower-risk drinking in 2016. There, the recommended levels for men were 16 g/day and women were 8 g/day.

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