There is an age-old French tradition of saying ‘sante’ (to your health) for ‘cheers’ while raising a toast. That will probably have to be abolished now. The relationship between alcohol consumption and health, especially relating to the heart, has ‘enjoyed’ a roller coaster ride over the past few decades. There were times when drinking alcohol was considered to be good for the heart and many people would go to great lengths in order to get a “medical certificate” to buy and consume alcohol for non-medical reasons. Many hotels would even arrange to get a “temporary medical certificate” for their guests staying for a night or two.
Reputed scientific cum medical journals would regularly publish articles on how alcohol consumed in small quantities everyday helped the “good” cholesterol to do its job of protecting the heart and they would even persuade non-drinkers to start drinking as a preventive measure. Doctors in countries like India were divided into believers and non-believers as far as alcohol consumption for improving heart health was concerned but they wouldn’t mind a drink anyway.
All that is now history as the world-famous medical journal Lancet (23 August 2018) has pronounced its verdict on the issue once and for all. It now officially says that there is no such thing as safe level of drinking alcohol, for any purpose, heart disease or no heart disease, based on extensive research carried out in the University of Washington School of Medicine.
"The health risks associated with alcohol are massive," said Dr. Emmanuela Gakidou of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and the senior author of the study. "Our findings are consistent with other recent research, which found clear and convincing correlations between drinking and premature death, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Zero alcohol consumption minimizes the overall risk of health loss."
The study, conducted between 1990 and 2016 in 195 countries and territories, does not distinguish between beer, wine, and liquor due to a lack of evidence when estimating the disease burden. The following is a verbatim list of health issues related to alcohol mentioned in the Lancet study.
· Cardiovascular diseases: atrial fibrillation and flutter, hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, hypertensive heart disease, ischemic heart disease, and alcoholic cardiomyopathy;
· Cancers: breast, colorectal, liver, esophageal, larynx, lip and oral cavity, and nasal;
· Other non-communicable diseases: cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol use, diabetes, epilepsy, pancreatitis, and alcohol use disorders;
· Communicable diseases: lower respiratory infections and tuberculosis;
· Intentional injuries: interpersonal violence and self-harm;
· Unintentional injuries: exposure to mechanical forces; poisonings; fire, heat, and hot substances; drowning; and other unintentional injuries; and
· Transportation-related injuries.
So the next time you want to say sante or cheers,while raising a toast, let it only be over a glass of water!