The belief that drinking wine helps protect against heart disease is wrong, according to The Globe magazine, published by the Institute of Alcohol Studies in the United Kingdom.
Reports in the early 1990’s of the supposed health benefits of moderate wine drinking in reducing heart disease led to an increase in wine consumption in the United States of 50 percent. But the basis for the conclusion-the lower incidence of deaths from heart attacks in France compared to other nations-is unproven, says France’s health minister, Dominique Gillot.
“There is no scientific consensus today over the protective effect of alcohol,” says Gillot. “The link between the quantity of alcohol consumed and the increased risk of diseases, particularly cancer, is, on the other hand, scientifically validated.”
In the Globe report published earlier this year, some scientists believe that the French statistics on coronaries are under-reported, and that because of the high rates of alcohol-related diseases such as liver disease and gastrointestinal cancer, people in France are dying from such causes before they have heart attacks. Life expectancy rates in France and the United States are similar.
The ongoing dispute over the “health claims” for wine has lead to a clash between wine producers who want to be able to make such claims on wine labels and those who believe that even any possible health benefits are far outweighed by the dangers of alcohol consumption.
“It’s ridiculous to accept such claims when we have so much documented evidence on the health dangers of alcohol,” says Thomas Neslund, health spokesman for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and director of the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. “Alcohol is a poison, a very powerful drug that causes damage to various organs in the body, including the brain. You’d be foolish to expose your body to the effects of alcohol for the doubtful belief of reducing heart disease.”
As for the “French connection,” Neslund points out that the French authorities are very concerned at alcohol’s $18.5 billion annual cost to their country and have among most stringent alcohol advertising laws in the world, banning alcohol industry sponsorship of sporting events, prohibiting TV ads for any kind of alcohol, and requiring any magazine ad for alcohol to carry government health warnings.
Even the existence of flavonoids in red wine, believed have some positive effects on the body, is no reason to start drinking, Neslund adds. “The same compounds are in red grape juice, so you can get the benefits without the downside of drinking alcohol.”
The Adventist Church has promoted the benefits of avoiding alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle since its inception, with early Adventist writers such as Ellen G. White identifying alcohol as a “poison” well before all its toxic effects were scientifically established.