Category Archives: Alcohol

Alcohol Is Killing Too Many of Us

Irish Whiskey.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a recent scientific paper found an alarming increase in deaths related to alcohol:

The researchers found that, in 2017, nearly half of alcohol-related deaths resulted from liver disease (31%; 22,245) or overdoses on alcohol alone or with other drugs (18%; 12,954). People aged 45-74 had the highest rates of deaths related to alcohol, but the biggest increases over time were among people age 25-34. High rates among middle-aged adults are consistent with recent reports of increases in “deaths of despair,” generally defined as deaths related to overdoses, alcohol-associated liver cirrhosis, and suicides, primarily among non-Hispanic whites. However, the authors report that, by the end of the study period, alcohol-related deaths were increasing among people in almost all age and racial and ethnic group.

As with increases in alcohol consumption and related medical emergencies, rates of death involving alcohol increased more for women (85%) than men (35%) over the study period, further narrowing once large differences in alcohol use and harms between males and females. The findings come at a time of growing evidence that even one drink per day of alcohol can contribute to an increase in the risk of breast cancer for women. Women also appear to be at a greater risk than men for alcohol-related cardiovascular diseases, liver disease, alcohol use disorder, and other consequences.

“Alcohol is a growing women’s health issue,” said Dr. Koob. “The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades.”

Source: Alcohol-related deaths increasing in the United States | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

I’ve written about adverse effects of alcohol consumption, and who shouldn’t drink alcohol at all.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Alcohol Promotes Some Cancers, Inhibits Others

Alcohol is linked to higher risk of breast cancer

Do you drink alcohol in part because you think it’s good for heart and brain health? If so, you may be increasing your risk of cancer.

From JAMA Network:

Ample evidence has been available for some time indicating that alcohol use is a preventable risk factor for cancer, and the World Health Organization deemed alcohol a carcinogen more than 30 years ago. In the United States, it is estimated that 5.6% of incident cancer cases (approximately 87 000 each year) are associated with alcohol, including cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, liver, esophagus (squamous cell carcinoma), female breast, and colorectum.1 Type of alcohol does not appear to matter; all alcoholic beverages include ethanol, which increases levels of acetaldehyde and in turn promotes DNA damage. Moreover, even moderate levels of consumption (often defined as approximately 14-28 g/d, the equivalent of about 1-2 drinks) appear to be associated with higher risk of some cancers, including cancers of the female breast.2 A protective association has emerged for some cancers, with the most evidence for kidney, Hodgkin lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.2 Nonetheless, the overall cancer burden associated with alcohol use is substantial and comparable with that of other preventable risk factors such as UV exposure and excess body weight.

Source: Alcohol and Cancer Risk: Clinical and Research Implications | Oncology | JAMA | JAMA Network

Steve Parker, M.D.

Click the pic to purchase at Amazon.com. E-book versions also available at Smashwords. com

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Judicious Wine Consumption May Prevent Dementia

“Is the room spinning, or is it just me?”

The inverse relationship between moderate wine drinking and incident dementia was explained neither by known predictors of dementia nor by medical, psychological or socio-familial factors. Considering also the well documented negative associations between moderate wine consumption and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in this age group, it seems that there is no medical rationale to advise people over 65 to quit drinking wine moderately, as this habit carries no specific risk and may even be of some benefit for their health. Advising all elderly people to drink wine regularly for prevention of dementia would be however premature at this stage.

Source: Wine consumption and dementia in the elderly: a prospective community study in the Bordeaux area. – PubMed – NCBI

But remember, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to cognitive decline.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Click the pic to purchase at Amazon.com. E-book versions also available at Smashwords.com.

 

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Cancel Alcohol’s Carcinogenic Effect With Exercise

Jamesons Irish Whiskey Photo copyright: Steve Parker MD

Jamesons Irish Whiskey
Photo copyright: Steve Parker MD

It was just a few months ago we learned that you’ll die of cancer if you tipple. Well, a new study says you can counteract the carcinogenic alcohol with adequate physical activity.

A story at CNN tells us how much exercise it takes :

“Specifically, they looked at the impact of the recommended amount of weekly exercise for adults, which is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. That includes brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS also advises strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice a week.”

Source: Exercise can cancel out the booze, says study – CNN.com

The rule of thumb on how much alcohol is relatively safe to drink is 7 typical drinks a week for women, and 14 for men.

Also remember that even one or two drinks under the right circumstances can have devastating consequences.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: All of my books have extensive recommendations on getting started with exercise, even if you’re a 300-lb couch potato.

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From P.D. Mangan: How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

“Is the room spinning, or is it just me?”

He reviewed the recent scientific literature and concludes:

“Heavy drinking has well-defined adverse effects, but we’re told that moderate drinking of a couple drinks daily may be protective when it comes to heart disease.Moderate drinking may be protective, or there may just be an association among intelligence, health, and drinking. And the protective effect of alcohol with regard to heart disease is typically seen in older populations and/or those who have a high background risk of heart disease.If you’re in-shape and/or less than old, alcohol probably won’t decrease your risk of heart disease.

However, moderate drinking can cause other illnesses, including cancer.I’m forced to conclude that the benefits of alcohol have been overblown. However, in moderate drinking, the risks may be small — nonetheless, they are there.

Don’t fool yourself that your moderate drinking is good for you. It facilitates social interaction, makes you temporarily less anxious — but good for your health? Seems doubtful.”

Source: How Much Alcohol Is Too Much? – Rogue Health and Fitness

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Is It Time to Freak-Out About Arsenic In Wine?

Is the arsenic in the irrigation water, pesticides, or introduced during processsing?

Is the arsenic in the irrigation water, pesticides, or introduced during processsing?

A class-action lawsuit in California claims that certain wines have dangerously high levels of arsenic that could cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes. USA Today has one of the ubiquitous stories outlining the few details we know at this point.

Furthermore, chronic low-dose arsenic exposure can cause skin changes (e.g., scaly thick skin, darkening, lightening), peripheral neuropathy (numbness, pain, weakness, typically starting in the feet, then hands), peripheral vascular disease, and liver disease. The cancers linked to arsenic are mostly skin, bladder, lung, and liver. The increased cancer risk persists even after the end of exposure.

How Do You Know If You’ve Been Poisoned With Arsenic?

Comments here refer to chronic low-dose exposure; acute high dose poisoning is another can o’ worms.

First, see your doctor for a history and physical exam and let her know you’re worried about arsenic. If arsenic poisoning remains a possibility, lab testing is usually a 24-hour urine collection for arsenic, or spot urine for arsenic and creatinine. “Spot” in this context means a random single specimen, not a 24-hour collection. For the 48 to 72 hours before either of those tests, don’t eat fish, seaweed, or shellfish.

What about testing hair for arsenic? In general, it’s not accurate.

Bottom Line

At this point, if you or someone you love drinks wine, I suggest simply keeping an eye on this story as it develops. We need more facts. The whole thing could blow over, with nothing coming of it. One of the brands mentioned is Sutter Home, one of my favorites.

Remember a few years ago when we had the vapors over arsenic in rice?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Wine is a time-honored component of the traditional Mediterranean diet, but see my books for alternatives to wine. You don’t have to drink wine to live long and prosper.

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Wine Ratings: Legitimate or Malarkey?

"Is the room spinning, or is it just me?"

“Is the room spinning, or is it just me?”

Wine is a time-honored component of the healthy Mediterranean diet and probably contributes to the longevity seen with Mediterranean-style eating. That’s why wine is an option on my Advanced Mediterranean Diet, Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet, and Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet. Folks new to wine-drinking are confused by the myriad wine varieties and don’t know which kind to get. This post should help separate the wheat from the chaff. Wine snobs typically think “the more expensive the wine, the better.” But are they right?

A couple years ago, someone gave me an expensive bottle of champagne that I’d never had before. I won’t mention the brand because I’m not looking for trouble. The brand is iconic and a bottle costs $150-200 (USD). The more you pay, the better it should be, right?

I’m no expert on champagne, but this stuff was awful. Had the bottle simply gone bad? Too old? My wife had drunk this champagne several times before in business settings, and said this flavor was typical. It was a real eye-opener for me.

Robert T. Gonzalez has an article on wine-tasting at IO9. A quote:

 In 2001, researcher Frédéric Brochet invited 54 wine experts to give their opinions on what were ostensibly two glasses of different wine: one red, and one white. In actuality, the two wines were identical, with one exception: the “red” wine had been dyed with food coloring.

The experts described the “red” wine in language typically reserved for characterizing reds. They called it “jammy,” for example, and noted the flavors imparted by its “crushed red fruit.” Not one of the 54 experts surveyed noticed that it was, in fact a white wine.

David McRaney has a more nuanced article on the same issue at The Atlantic. For instance:

In blind taste tests, long-time smokers can’t tell their brand from any of the competitors and wine connoisseurs have a hard time telling $200 bottles from $20 ones. When presented microwaved food from the frozen food section in the setting of a fine restaurant, most people never notice. Taste is subjective, which is another way of saying you are not so smart when it comes to choosing one product over another. All things equal, you refer back to the advertising or the packaging or conformity with your friends and family. Presentation is everything.

If you have more time, check out Calvin Trillin’s article on white-red differentiation in The New Yorker. His suspicion is that “…experienced wine drinkers can tell red from white by taste about seventy per cent of the time, as long as the test is being administered by someone who isn’t interested in trying to fool them.”

The take-home points for me after reading all these are:

  • the more expensive wines are by no means better tasting; I’m sticking with cheaper
  • when you hear someone waxing eloquent about the various flavors in a particular wine, they’re most likely full-of-it (FOS); in other words, it’s malarkey
  • you’re as good a wine judge as anyone else; satisfy your own palate

Steve Parker, M.D.

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