Friday, February 20, 2009

Drinking just one glass of wine a day can INCREASE risk of cancer by 168%, say the French

Hey! Where did that wonderful Mediterranean diet go? Isn't France one of the beneficiaries of it? And is not wine an integral part of it? Now I am really confused (NOT)

Drinking just a small glass of wine a day can more than double the risk of cancer, a study claims. It says that consuming just one 125ml glass of wine increases the chance of developing mouth and throat cancer by 168 per cent. Other cancers are also more likely to strike regular drinkers, the study by France's National Cancer Institute (INCA) reports.

Dominique Maraninchi, INCA's president, said: 'Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful. There is no amount, however small, which is good for you.' The findings go against previous research, which has found that the antioxidants in red wine can actually reduce the risk of cancer.

The INCA study warned: 'The consumption of alcohol is associated with an increase in the risk of cancers - mouth, larynx, oesophagus, colon-rectum, and breast cancer. 'The cause is above all the transformation of ethanol in alcohol to acetaldehyde, which damages DNA in healthy cells.' This is particularly likely to happen if alcohol is introduced into the body daily - even in small measures, it added.

Official figures show that alcohol is responsible for around 6 per cent - or 9,000 cases - of all cancer deaths in the UK each year, including 5,000 cases of mouth and oesophagus cancer and 2,000 cases of breast cancer. Dr Jodie Moffat, of charity Cancer Research UK, said: 'We know that drinking just small amounts of alcohol, in the form of beer, wine or spirits, increases the risk of several different types of cancer. 'So the more you cut down on alcohol, the more you can reduce your cancer risk.'

Judy O'Sullivan, of the British Heart Foundation, added: 'Between one and two units of alcohol a day may offer some protection against coronary heart disease. 'But there are much healthier ways to look after your heart. 'There is very little evidence that red wine has any specific benefits over other alcoholic drinks.'

The INCA study said alcohol was now the second most avoidable cause of death after tobacco. The findings contradict numerous other studies which have found that the antioxidants in red wine actually reduced the risk of cancer, and that a single glass a day was also good for the liver. A separate study last year published in the medical journal Neurology said those who drank modest amounts of alcohol developed dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, at an 85 per cent slower rate than those who did not drink.

Britain is the tenth biggest drinking nation in the world, consuming around 12 litres of pure alcohol per person per year - the equivalent of three glasses of wine every day. Luxembourg consumes the world's most, at 16 litres per year, ahead of Ireland, Hungary and Moldova, all on around 14 litres. France is in 17th place, on around 11 litres of pure alcohol per year, according to World Health Organisation figures.

The same study also found that eating more than 500g (1.2lbs) of red meat can also raise the risks of colonic cancer, and that excessive levels of salt raise the risk of stomach cancer. The report added: 'Cancer is dependent on many factors, and there is no miracle diet that remove the risks. 'But eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and doing regular physical exercise has been proven to reduce the risks dramatically.'


The story above seems to have originated from a newly issued advisory brochure here (in French). It claims to be a summary of research but no details of any are given. More epidemiological rubbish, I expect

Some skepticism about the firstborn "advantage"

What does surprise me, though, about the findings of the researchers at University College, London, is their conclusion that first-born children are privileged on account of the fuss that besotted parents make of them. David Lawson and Professor Ruth Mace, who conducted a study of 14,000 families, liken the process to primogeniture, the aristocratic inheritance policy whereby the winner takes all, leaving the younger siblings with a choice of Army, Church, marriage and black-sheepdom as career options.

Lawson and Mace talk of "later-born disadvantage", and a "deficit" in parental care. But I doubt if many first-borns would share the conviction that they have drawn the long straw. Most would gladly swap the extra violin lessons and help with their viking longboat model for a dose of the benign neglect enjoyed by their younger siblings.

Eldest children score higher in IQ tests because they spend more time having precociously grown-up conversations with parents. As a result, they are often high achievers, but they are made anxious, burdened with the weight of parental expectation. Depression, adherence to convention and feelings of failure are a high price to pay for an unfair share of attention.

Early on, the eldest of my five children spotted that it was a drag being the first past every milestone. He developed a cunning way to deal with it: he didn't play ball. He loathed school and resisted all organised activity - we are talking here about a child who managed to "forget" to sit one of his GCSEs - until my husband and I accepted that he was going to do what he wanted, regardless of what we had dreamed up for him. In doing so, he passed the baton to his younger sister, who has responded more enthusiastically to the pressure.

When I told him of yesterday's report, he was adamant that he would rather be a younger member of a family. "Parents get better at being parents with later children," he said. And are middle-class parents worse at it than working-class? "Yes, because they aren't so used to having children around. They've spent more years in offices."

There I go, proving the researchers' point by asking the first-born's opinion and ignoring the rest of the family. But I fear he's right. My younger children have it easy. I've long since stopped worrying about whether they are making the most of their talents. So long as they appear happy, and their school reports aren't too dismal, they can pretty much do what they please. That isn't "disadvantage".


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