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Australian medical experts slam ‘myth’ that red wine is good for you

A group of Australian health bodies has attacked what it calls the ‘myth’ that red wine can have health-giving properties.

Red grapes – good for you?

The Alcohol Policy Coalition, whose members include the Australian Drug Foundation and the Heart Foundation, has challenged the recent body of research that claims red wine in moderation reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

The report, Myth busted: red wine no magic remedy for heart disease, is released today to coincide with the United Nations meeting on non-communicable diseases.

Beginning with the statistic that more than half of all alcohol-related deaths globally are from diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer or liver cirrhosis, the report cites studies from around the world which say the dangers of alcohol outweigh any health benefit.

‘After reviewing all the scientific evidence it appears any positive effects of alcohol in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease have been hugely overestimated,‘ Kathy Bell, CEO of the Victoria Heart Foundation says.

‘In particular, red wine has no special, protective qualities when it relates to cardiovascular disease.’

Globally, 545,000 people died of alcohol-related cardiovascular disease in 2004, and in Australia 5% of all cancers are caused by alcohol, including one in five breast cancers, a press release from the APC says.

The APC is calling for government action in the form of an ‘effective alcohol tax,’ Todd Harper, CEO of APC member Cancer Council Victoria said.

‘Wine is taxed by value not alcohol content. So when Australians can buy cask wine for less than soft drink, it’s little surprise we have a AUS$15bn drinking problem on our hands,’ he said.

‘But there is something the Government can do to help fix the problem – with an effective alcohol tax, Australia can lead the world in reducing alcohol related diseases, including heart disease and cancer.’

There is a formidable body of research – much of it documented on Decanter.com – demonstrating that alcohol, and in particular red wine, when taken in moderation, lowers the risk of certain cancers and coronary heart disease and increases life expectation in men and women.

In particular it is generally recognised by a wide spectrum of medical experts that phenols present in the skin of red grapes have beneficial anti-oxidant properties.

Dr Thomas Stuttaford, former medical columnist for the Times, said ‘there is no doubt at all that alcohol helps you live longer. While it increases the risk of certain cancers such as colon or breast cancer, you are less likely to get other cancers, and heart disease. There are numerous studies which bear this out.’

Stuttaford made clear that he was talking about drinking moderate amounts of alcohol.

Alcohol In Moderation (AIM), a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to communicate the message of responsible drinking, has a comprehensive list of recent studies into the effects of alcohol.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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