Family doctors in Spain have debunked the popular myth about how a glass of red wine a day is good for the heart – there is no minimum safe alcohol level, and any amount of alcohol at all increases the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, GPs stress.
The national cancer research and care charity AECC have already stated in the past that every sip of alcohol is an increase in the risk of developing this devastating disease, and now, the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (SemFYC) has reaffirmed this at its recent 39th Congress in Málaga.
For a long time now, unsubstantiated claims have been doing the rounds about how 30 grams of red wine a day is good for the heart, even helping to reverse the effects in anyone already diagnosed with a heart condition, but the SemFYC says: “There are no reasons for recommending the consumption of any type of alcohol to the population as beneficial for health.”
Professor Julio Basulto from the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing Sciences at Vic University refers to other popular alcohol myths, such as whisky being conducive to ‘being a good lover’, and says there are ‘no well-designed scientific studies’ that support any physical health benefits deriving from alcohol.
On the contrary, the ‘healthy’ glass-a-day cited by certain media and social media sources ‘demonstrably’ ups the risk of high blood pressure, haemorrhagic stroke and auricular fibrillation, Professor Basulto says.
He referred to a study published in the medical journal BMC Public Health which found that if a non-smoking woman drinks a bottle of wine a week – six very small or three large glasses in seven days – her risk of developing breast cancer rises by the equivalent of smoking two cigarettes a day.
In fact, one in every five types of breast cancer are caused directly by alcohol, the BMC Public Health report claims.
“The medical profession needs to get rid of the idea of ‘moderate alcohol consumption’ carrying no health risks,” Professor Basulto stresses.
“This idea about alcohol being good for heart health is not only questionable and full of confusion, bias and absence of biological mechanisms to support it but does not consider the carcinogenic potential of alcohol.”
Also at the SemFYC, an article by the American Institute for Cancer Research was quoted, stating that ‘even small amounts of alcoholic drinks can increase the risk for several types of cancer’, and, ‘there is no minimum consumption threshold below which the risk of cancer does not increase, at least for certain types of the disease’.
Despite this, nine in 10 people questioned were unaware of the increased risk of cancer through drinking red wine in particular, but nine in 10 believed that doing so was good for heart health.
And the healthy-heart properties in red wine cited – but not proven – only represent one-tenth of the properties which are harmful to the heart and conducive to cancer risk increase, the American Institute of Cancer Research says.
The SemFYC Congress members also raised concerns about alcohol consumption in minors, pointing out that the ‘reality’ is that teenagers do drink and always have done, but as their brains are not fully developed, they were causing permanent damage by doing so.
Education about alcohol should focus on abstaining altogether, and laws banning sale and consumption to under-18s should be reinforced, doctors stated at the Congress.
They said there is no safe level of drinking for anyone under this age.
For those who drink a glass of red wine a day to ‘benefit’ from the flavonoids and antioxidants in it which may increase heart health, the damaging effects of this glass-a-day are ten times that of the ‘helpful’ ingredients, the SemFYC says.
They recommend that to obtain the benefits of the same types of flavonoids and antioxidants, people should eat grapes and wholegrain cereals instead.