Depressing News

Saturday, March 30, 2013
By Wolfgang K Piller MD

Checking my portfolio of Seaside Gazette articles reveals that there are definitely two subjects missing over the years: alcohol and hypertension. Thus I shall start with the more pleasurable subject, which for some is a problematic one. Alcohol in moderation is pleasurable and considered to be healthy, e.g. reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes.

Studies suggest that the most important ingredient is the alcohol itself, although different flavins can have additional benefits that are not alcohol related. Therefore the eternal discussion of what is preferable, French red wine or German white or similar will keep bugging us, because too many intend to discover the philosophers´ stone. On the other hand excessive alcohol intake has been associated with an increased risk of morbidity and death.

In the south of Spain with so many good friends around it is often difficult to figure out what amount of alcohol is healthy and how much is excessive. 3-4 units for men or 2-3 units for women on most days of a week are considered safe. There is an ongoing dispute that this level is not based on any scientific evidence and that the limit should be higher, but unfortunately drinking guidelines were designed to answer the question: at what level of regular alcohol consumption is drinking safe and not at what level is drinking harmful?

One UK-unit of alcohol is defined as a volume of 10 millilitres (7.9 grams) and as a mass of 10 g (12.7 ml) in Spain. Calculating units can be deceiving, because home measures are more generous and alcoholic beverages nowadays are stronger than 25 years ago, when the standard measures of ½ pint of beer, one glass of wine and one measure of spirits were equalled with one unit of alcohol. But the mathematical calculation is easy: number of millilitres multiplied by the percentage of alcohol divided by 1000 gives you the units (one bottle of wine 750ml x 13% of alcohol = 9750 : 1000 = 9.75 units, one can of beer 330ml x 4,9% of alcohol = 1617 : 1000 = 1.62 units).

There is another myth going round that a liver function test shows whether you are still safe with the amount you are drinking. Nothing could be further away from the truth, because more than half of heavy drinkers will have a normal liver function. Alcohol unfortunately – like smoking- can damage many parts of the body, a healthy liver then will not be of any comfort: withdrawal symptoms, dependence, pancreatitis, liver diseases, depression, mania, panic disorder, phobias, anxiety and personality disorders, schizophrenia, suicide, memory impairment, emotional instability, brain and nerve damage, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer of the respiratory system, mouth, digestive system, liver, breast and ovaries, premature aging, lack of libido, impotence, accidents, injuries, violence and fetal damage. But don´t forget what Frank Sinatra (12.12.1915 – 14.05.1998) said: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day ” Cheers.

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