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  1. 5-HT2A
    You may have heard that one alcoholic drink a day is good for you as it can stave off heart disease and help you to live longer.

    But not all scientists agree. And now, a large genetic study has thrown a wet blanket over the situation.

    Their advice is that everyone should lower their alcohol intake to zero, if they want to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. This also applies to moderate drinkers.

    "I was surprised. I actually thought that a glass of wine a day somehow had beneficial effects. But I don’t think that anymore," says Lasse Folkersen, a postdoc with the Institute for Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark.

    Modern genetic engineering reveals the effects of alcohol

    Folkersen is one of many the scientists involved with a large study, which analysed the alcohol habits, genes, and disease history of 261,991 Europeans.

    The researchers took advantage of their knowledge of a particular variant of the gene ADH1B, which produces an acute oversensitivity to ethanol (alcohol) and helps the carriers of this genetic variant to drink less.

    A small number of study participants carried this 'reduced alcohol variant', and this group had a 10 per cent reduced risk of developing heart disease and a 17 per cent reduced risk of blood clots than those with the regular gene.

    Folkersen and colleagues also looked at people who drank relatively little--less than seven drinks per week--and they observed the same trend. It seemed that even in this group of light drinkers, the risk of heart diseases could be further reduced if they cut down on their already modest alcohol intake.

    The study is supported by the Tryg Foundation and was published in July 2014 in the scientific journal British Medical Journal.

    Alcohol's effect is disputed

    The results completely contradict a common interpretation of previous population studies, which examined the relationship between alcohol intake and cardiovascular disease.

    "Many studies have shown that the relationship was U- or J-shaped. That means that the risk decreased if you drank moderately compared to if you drank nothing at all, and then increased again [if you drank a lot],” says Allan Linneberg, a clinical professor at Copenhagen University Hospital, Denmark. He is the head of section for Research for Prevention and Health, which provided data for the new study.

    “How to interpret this relationship has been discussed a lot. Some have interpreted it in such a way as to suggest that one drink a day protects against heart disease when compared with those who don’t drink at all," says Linneberg.

    But despite a clear correlation between moderate alcohol intake and a reduced risk of heart disease, it is not certain whether the underlying cause was indeed alcohol. Rather, it could be some other trait shared by the moderate drinkers.

    Alcohol myths set to fall?

    The surprising conclusions not only question whether moderate alcohol consumption actually protects us against heart disease, it also questions the previously supposed links between moderate alcohol intake and a myriad of other diseases, including dementia, diabetes, obesity and asthma.

    "I’m a little sceptical that a drug could have a positive effect on so many different diseases. It would be hard to explain from a biological point of view," says Linneberg.

    Linneberg is now using the same methods as Folkersen to identify precisely how alcohol could affect asthma and other allergies. His hypothesis is that alcohol increases the risk of asthma and allergy outbreaks.

    "We know that many people have allergic reactions when they drink alcohol. They get an itchy nose, a skin rash, they sneeze, and some even develop a little asthma,” says Linneberg. “We think that alcohol might trigger an allergic reaction in the immune system.”

    by Jonas Salomonsen

    November 8, 2015



  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    Nice find, and important information for those among us that use alcohol on a regular basis.

    Truth, in all things, sets us free.
  2. rawbeer
    I've heard it suggested - I cannot recall where - that moderate alcohol intake correlates to lower risks of various diseases for essentially psychosomatic reasons. Most moderate drinkers are social drinkers and it is the increased sociability and network of friends they experience that is actually at work. I do believe strong links between sociability and support networks and better health have been very well demonstrated, especially among people of more advanced age.

    Socializing with friends, reduced stress levels from the relaxing effects, and feelings of bonding can be very positive side effects of moderate social drinking. It's not so much the drug itself but the culture that surrounds it. The moderate drinking culture of middle or upper class people is a far cry from the binge drinking culture of the poor (not that rich people don't abuse alcohol also!) Or a recreational cocaine user versus a homeless crack smoker, a doctor addicted to his medical morphine stash versus a street addict.

    Of course you don't need alcohol to have a vibrant social life and lots of friends. I don't really socialize with many non-drinkers (although my best friend doesn't drink) so I don't really know what they do with themselves! I tend to think of them as being sort of wet blankets, which is probably just the prejudice of a drinker.

    But I do think the exhaustive attempts to prove that alcohol has some sort of benefit, when of course the overwhelming evidence suggests it's probably one of the most dangerous substances known to humanity, is just the collective denial of a culture built around alcohol. Alcohol is truly the drug of civilization, some anthropologists even suggest that alcohol, and not grains for eating, was the driving force behind the unintentional transition to agricultural life which created civilization.

    Civilization was not invented, it accidentally happened, and along the way a number of things that don't make sense logically - drinking, bigotry, exploitation, unnatural living conditions, etc. - became ingrained features. We have all sorts of wacky self-delusions we use to justify this nonsensical lifestyle, and when they start to show themselves for the nonsense they are, we have a drink to dull the pain of cognitive dissonance. As Homer Simpson said, alcohol is "the cause of and solution to all of society's problems."

    I don't think I could stand to live in society without drugs. I don't think many people can at all. I don't think civilization was ever meant to be something that is tolerable without drugs, they are part and parcel. We've built a lifestyle around a drug and every now and then the medical community, or the temperance movement, or religion tries to tell us to sober up. It ain't gonna happen! I think the closest thing we can get to a solution is to be more embracing of healthier alternatives like cannabis, or kava, or mushrooms.
  3. Gradois
    Another possible explanation for why earlier studies have shown a health benefit is that they got the causation the wrong way. In other words: It's not that moderate drinking makes you less sick, but that sick people avoids alcohol since it makes them even more sick.
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