In previous blogs, I mentioned that alcohol can be good to raise your HDL, “good” type cholesterol, which may lead to a reduction of risk in heart disease. This past year, a global study on alcohol habits sponsored by the WHO (World Health Organization) found that alcohol is a significant contributor to death and suffering worldwide from all causes including car accidents, accidental falls, osteoporosis, cancers, obesity, suicide, and mental illness, just to name a few. So I pose two questions: Do the “heart healthy” benefits of alcohol outweigh the massive list of illnesses caused by alcohol? Should we be continuing to consume alcohol as a “medication” thinking it will prolong our lives?
If you look at the study, we should not be drinking alcohol period. The increased risk of cancers (including all the major cancers such as colon, breast, prostate, stomach) alone is enough to negate the theoretical lives saved from heart disease by even modest drinking. Hypothetically, if alcohol was a drug that was presented in front of the FDA today as a newly discovered drug to prevent heart disease, it would by no means pass their standards. Sure, you may not get a heart attack in 10 years, BUT you will die in a car accident from excessive drinking in just one night, or you could die a miserable death from liver cancer at any point. I can just imagine the TV commercial would be hilarious, and the side effects would go on for at least 10 minutes. I would say, at this point, if you are drinking alcohol (in moderation, of course) because you enjoy it, that is fine, but if you have a family history of any cancer and want to reduce your risk, then I would say it may be prudent to remove alcohol from your life. However, if you do not enjoy drinking a glass of wine each night and are doing it solely because your healthcare provider told you it would be helpful to raise your HDL, I would recommend you stop now. I’m glad there has been new studies shedding light on this serious health issue, which has largely been ignored.