Scientists have found the benefits of alcohol

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Scientists have found the benefits of alcohol
Scientists have found the benefits of alcohol

Drinking red wine, abundantly diluted with water, has been recommended by doctors for a long time. In ancient Greece, wine was considered healthier than water, and Roman legionnaires always took flasks of wine with them on campaigns - at least to prevent dysentery. Even drugs were dissolved in wine, not water. However, drinking raw water was really risky - it threatened with intestinal disorders and poisoning. But alcohol had a disinfecting effect, and people - although they had not heard of microbes - still guessed about it.

Today, this argument is no longer relevant, because many have access to clean drinking water. And yet, the belief in the benefits of wine is firmly entrenched in the mass consciousness. Even despite the fact that at the official level (for example, in the Ministry of Health of Russia) there is an unambiguous verdict: there is no safe dose of alcohol. The position of the Ministry of Health is consistent with the conclusions of the World Health Organization and the United Nations, which were announced last year.

However, people who drink may object: officials in this way are trying to influence those who drink a lot, do not take into account their risks and endanger others by driving. That is, the problem is allegedly in the behavior of people, and not at all in the alcohol itself. It is not for nothing that even doctors sometimes advise to drink a glass. And how not to recall the reasoning about "simple peasant vodka" from the lips of the charming bastard Müller, which is better than brandy for vessels.

But many popular beliefs turn out to be myths. Are the benefits of alcohol among them?

Is alcohol part of a healthy lifestyle?

When talking about the benefits of wine, they often refer to the example of France. They say that for the French, drinking a glass of wine at dinner is the norm. At the same time, no alcoholization of the population is observed. Moreover, mortality from heart disease in France is relatively low. Even though the French diet is relatively high in calories, it is rich in cheese, butter and meat, the very foods commonly associated with heart attacks and strokes.

The average French man eats 60% more cheese and three times more pork than the average American. At the same time, according to the British Heart Foundation, the mortality rate from coronary heart disease among men 35–74 years old in the United States was 115 people per 100 thousand of the population, in France - only 83. The rate of cancer among the French is 25% lower … At the same time, the annual per capita alcohol consumption in France is higher than in the United States: 12 liters versus 9.

According to one of the theories, which was actively promoted by the researcher Serge Renaud (one of those who coined the term "French paradox"), moderate consumption of red wine was the very factor that defended the French. Moderate wine consumption is also part of the "Mediterranean Diet" that organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association regularly include in their health guidelines.

“Indeed, the French, who consumed up to 1 liter (five glasses) a day of wines of southern origin, had far fewer cardiovascular diseases than their northern counterparts,” explains professor of neuropsychopharmacology David Nutt. “This cardioprotective effect is associated with a high - about 20 mg per liter - the content of resveratrol in French red wine. It's a substance that really protects blood vessels. But the thing is that due to pesticides, its content in most wines is low. Besides, it is now available as a dietary supplement: in one capsule about 41 times more resveratrol than one glass of red wine."

There is another explanation: those who drink wine and live in France tend to follow a healthier lifestyle in general.They not only eat more vegetables and fruits, but also pay much attention to physical activity, smoke less often. “Wine consumers are usually wealthier people who can afford better medicine, better quality products, and personal care,” adds Aleksey Vodovozov. The notorious culture of drinking also affects. France is considered a country with a "southern model" of wine consumption - when people drink quite regularly, but little by little, and less strong alcohol. Russia, on the other hand, is known as a country with a "northern model" - they drink more strong drinks here, and in large doses. It is these cases that are responsible for most of the deaths associated with alcohol.

If there is a benefit, how can it be measured?

From the point of view of evidence-based medicine, the best way to find out something with certainty is to conduct an experiment. For example, in order to evaluate the effect of a new drug, a group of people are given it in certain doses throughout the year and the participants' condition is assessed: changes in health, symptoms, substances in the analyzes. Another group receives a placebo - a pacifier similar to the drug but no effect - so that the results can be compared. But in the case of alcohol, experimental testing is at least unethical. Pumping up the participants in the experiment with wine or vodka for the sake of science - it smacks of Nazi practices.

Therefore, in most studies, scientists simply compare clinical data from thousands of people. The logic is simple: since they drink anyway, we can see how it affects their lives. Back in the mid-1990s, the American Heart Association reported that “over a dozen studies have demonstrated a consistent, strong dose-response relationship between increased alcohol consumption and a decrease in the incidence of coronary artery disease (coronary artery disease) among different geographic and ethnic groups. two drinks a day is associated with a risk reduction of about 30-50%. " And in a recent study, those who consumed 8 grams of alcohol (in their drinks) had a 27% lower risk of a second heart attack, stroke, or angina pectoris compared with nondrinkers. And if people drank only 6 g of alcohol, the risk was reduced by half. But already at 15 g per day, there was no such advantage.

Interestingly, if you take large scientific reviews - meta-analyzes that compare data from studies on the same topic - the benefit of a particular type of alcohol becomes unclear. Wine, cognac, vodka - any type of alcohol in terms of the volume of alcohol gives approximately the same effect in small doses. Some scientists therefore believe that it is precisely in alcohol, and not in some related substances. In such quantities, alcohol thins the blood and reduces the risk of blood clots. This effect, perhaps, is becoming visible to researchers.

There are benefits from alcohol - but this does not mean that alcohol is good

If alcohol can "be friends" with the heart and blood vessels up to a certain limit, this does not apply to other organs. In the 21st century, researchers have begun to uncover more and more links between alcohol use and other risks - cancer in particular. And if the risk of cardiovascular disease begins to grow only from the threshold of 8-15 g, then the risk of cancer and premature death grows for any volume. The plot of the relationship between daily alcohol consumption and health risks is called the J-curve. In non-drinkers, the mortality rate is slightly increased compared to those who drink a little. But the mortality curve is steadily creeping upward with each additional portion.

It should also be borne in mind that people can rarely stay strictly within the relatively safe dose - "one standard portion" (standard drink) per day. This concept is used, for example, by the World Health Organization in the alcohol abuse test.In the WHO and the European Union, the standard portion is the same 8 g of pure alcohol, which corresponds to one glass of unfortified wine (140 ml), one can of beer (330 ml) or one glass of strong alcohol (40 ml).

What does a safe amount of alcohol consumption mean? This is the amount that is within the acceptable risk range, explains Professor David Nutt in his book "To Drink or Not to Drink? The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health." If you do not go beyond one standard serving per day (exactly on one day, and not on the average per day, if you take a week or a month), your risk of dying from alcohol-related causes is slightly less than 1%.

But alcohol is addictive, and once familiar with alcohol, a person can surreptitiously overstep this reasonable limit. Alcohol is also a "social" drink. Most cases of alcoholism (and deaths from it) occur in those segments of the population that suffer from difficult living conditions, constant stress and uncertainty, they do not have money to get good psychological help.

This is why the risks in practice almost always outweigh any benefits. It is no coincidence that the WHO has a clear recommendation on alcohol consumption: "If you haven't drunk alcohol, don't start."

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