The chief medical officer of Britain, Lady Sally Davies, fired a torpedo against the drinkers of the country during the first week of the year 2016. Or did she? Let’s look at the facts.
The issue is the guidance offered to drinkers by CMOs of the four countries within the UK (Davies is the UK’s CMO, which is the equivalent of the Surgeon General of America – however, there are separate CMOs to oversee Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland). Davies proposes to reduce the current rules that allow 21 units per week of alcohol for males and 14 units weekly for women to 14 teams across all. A single bottle of wine with 13.5 percent would equal 10.125 units of alcohol; thus, the suggestion is that “minimum-risk” drinking amounts with a half bottle of wine for five days and two days of rest (with an additional glass of wine in the middle). It is important to take time off on days off for pregnant women, and they shouldn’t drink alcohol at any time.
It’s just a suggestion. The consultation will close in March. Wine dealers, as well as others, are encouraged to comment on the proposal prior to that date. Of course, this is only advice; it’s yours to decide whether or not you want to follow it. The advice remains the same for women. The main changes affect male drinking.
You can view the full list of evidence-based arguments used by the CMOs on this page and download each piece of evidence to see for yourself. The primary research is a report titled “Mortality and mortality risks from drinking alcohol in the UK which was compiled by Sheffield University and is based on guidelines for thresholds in Canada as well as Australia. After having read all of it, I have noticed three key differences from similar documents from the past. First, I am not opposed to it. The second one is a puzzle. The third is the most toxic.
The most significant modification is that studies on risk from alcohol consumption are being analyzed with more care as opposed to the past, as these Sheffield documents are, in a variety of ways, more relevant to epidemiologists and medical statisticians as opposed to medical professionals. It is possible to summarize this by saying that if the previous guidance was prudent, the current guidelines are extremely cautious.
To make this more concrete, almost all of us are performing more risky actions within our lives than just a little over the limits of safe drinking (not more than double them, for example, every week). However, the UK government has not provided information on the other risk factors.
Examples? I often cycle around my neighborhood without an accident helmet, get into vehicles that are driven by people who don’t know me, and try to switch off light bulbs from an old chair. There’s no guidance from Lady Sally regarding sitting on rickety chairs; therefore, I don’t bother about it. Sometimes, I’m forced to be driven by someone else (who could be in the midst of having a heart attack, taking medication to their eyes, or just asleep); however, I’m aware I’m not wearing a helmet for crashing when riding a bicycle for short rides and longer ones.
The majority of people won’t be relating each aspect of their risk-based menus by this method, so they could end up stressing too much about the potential risks associated with drinking alcohol.
What is the equivalent level of consumption by men and women? It’s counterintuitive to believe that a regular glass of wine can have the same effect on a player in rugby league or sumo wrestler as it does on ballerinas. The problem is that the majority of the information from the Sheffield document suggests that drinking alcohol is actually less risky for women than men for each unit consumed, but is not greater despite their smaller size. (Size distinctions indicated that women would have higher levels of blood alcohol than men at a certain amount of alcohol consumption.)
However, note that the research is related to mortality and morbidity, as well as the fact that men tend to have more risky behavior patterns (like playing football or wrestling or making unhealthy decisions in fast-food establishments) as compared to women. This was always the case, and this is just one of the reasons of the many reasons why male births surpass female births. Again, drinking alcohol must be viewed as a component of a larger overall risk-management plan.
What’s the most toxic thing?
If you were present to hear Dame Sally Davies launch her proposals, you would have seen her snide remark about the idea that moderate consumption of alcohol, especially red wine, can result in positive health effects. She even described the general cardioprotective benefits of drinking red wine in the form of an “old wives’ tale” on BBC Radio 4’s popular “Today” show (though she did make an exemption for women who are over 55). In the UK, however, the British government -as well as Britain as a whole, which, it must be mentioned, has a tiny wine sector but a massive beer industry as well as a gigantic whisky and gin industry and refuses to differentiate among different types of alcohol with regard to health.
Seven authors from this report from Sheffield University report concede that some of their graphs actually show a hockey-stick curve, also known as a J-curve. Indicates that there are some benefits to moderate intake of alcoholic drinks (the below-the-line-line base on the “J’ is to the right of the graphic) before negative effects occur when consumption increases towards the left side of the graph; however, they continually denounce the meaning of the data that support this. If you decide to read the report, make sure to zoom in on Section 126.96.36.199 on pp.58-60 for a summary of the report’s “strong reasons to conclude the [benefits are], at the very least, overestimated within standard epidemiological analyses.” In addition, they don’t provide evidence to counter and only challenge the conclusions.
The most common suggestion (and they are being discussed in the USA in the present) is that the healthy lifestyle of those who drink moderately is due to a variety of exercise choices and diet, not the wine itself. Also, wine can be a symptom of a balanced lifestyle; however, it’s not causal. There is also the possibility that studies on wine-friendly lifestyles include in the group of non-drinkers those who have stopped drinking alcohol following heavy consumption and thus suffer from alcohol-related health problems.
There have certainly been numerous studies that have shown the benefits of drinking red wines, particularly since French research conducted by Serge Renaud aired on the US television program Sixty Minutes (on November 17 17th, 1991) and the idea that “a bit of red wine can be good for you has fueled the increase of wine consumption across the globe.
Watch this first Sixty Minutes show below from 1991. (Renaud’s remarks about wine begin at around 3:30.):
The belief that red wine is healthy wine is among the major reasons behind the rise in wine consumption that has occurred in China in recent times and is a major reason that red wine sales so vastly outnumber white-wine sales.
A concise overview of the benefits of drinking red wine for health, particularly the ones (like Madiran, Cahors, serious Bordeaux Nebbiolo-based wines like Barolo and Barbaresco, and other “tannic” Italian wines like Sagrantino di Montefalco) which are rich in anthocyanins and phenolics from the skin as well as procyanidins derived from pip, are discovered in Roger Corder’s meticulously written and researched the book “The Red-Wine Diet.” Corder is Professor of Experimental Therapeutics at the William Harvey Research Institute in London. Corder’s unique suggestion isn’t just that red wine is cardioprotective’ but rather that certain kinds of red (like the ones listed in the previous paragraph) are both extremely cardioprotective and may be linked to longevity enhancement in a certain population.