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Mar 21, 2008

Alcoholic, riding the wine wagon

To your health, cheers, but too much drink and nobody knows your name.

I ENJOY a glass of wine with my food. When the match is right, for example, salmon and Pinot Noir, or a light-bodied Chablis and oysters, the meal becomes an exquisitely enjoyable experience. I enjoy wine with music and art. A glass of champagne does wonders to a romantic evening. Wine adds much to the pursuit of beauty and pleasure.

Over the past decade, more and more peoples are drinking wine, especially red wine.I initially thought that there was an Epicurean movement in the making. When I saw wine served in Chinese tea glasses at room temperature (over 30C recently) and in a raucous, noisome and odoriferous ambience, I thought again.

Instead of sipping and savouring, there was gobbling and gulping. It was not for reason of aesthetics that most of them have taken to drinking wine. It was for reasons of health!

And since the colour red is auspicious and Bin 888 is one of their favourites, courting Lady Luck is another incentive to drink wine!

If only the attainment of health and wealth were so easy and enjoyable!

I discuss the French Paradox, resveratrol – a molecule which resonates with promise – and wine and health, in particular cancer.

In the US in the early 90s, the TV series 60 Minutes aired a report on a phenomenon known as the French Paradox – the fact that the French have a lower rate of heart disease than Americans, despite a diet higher in fat.

The one thing that the American diet lacks in comparison to the French diet is red wine. Some researchers looked for a link between the consumption of red wine and heart disease and found it!

In the year following this report, Americans increased their purchase of red wine by 39%. I guess we are not alone in jumping onto the “wine wagon”; it is just that we are almost a decade behind.

Drinking small amounts of alcohol (not necessarily red wine) can reduce your risk of heart disease. Cancer Research UK is one authority that concurs. However, this applies only to men above 40 and women who have been through the menopause.

The maximum amount of alcohol you should be drinking is two units per day for women and three units per day for men. A standard 175ml glass of wine (of 11 to 12% volume) contains two units. A premium pint of beer (5%) contains three units. Beyond that, the harm (heart disease, cancer) outdoes the good.

There is actually some science behind the supposed benefits of red wine. Red wine is rich in resveratrol. It is a part of the plant’s defence system against disease.

Resveratrol has been shown to reduce tumour incidence in animals. Scientists are studying resveratrol to learn more about its cancer preventive activities in man. This research is in its infancy.

Even when resveratrol is proven to be anti-cancer, the amount you get in each glass of red wine is so minuscule, you will probably need 100 glasses of wine daily to tap its anticancer properties! In years to come, it may be possible to take a tablet of pure resveratrol. It is certainly more practicable.

Too much alcohol puts you at risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (foodpipe), liver, breast and perhaps colon. Smoking and drinking together (de rigueur for a night out with the boys) increases your risk even more.

How does alcohol cause cancer? We are not entirely sure but there are several ideas.

Alcohol is converted in the body into a chemical called acetaldehyde. This causes cancer by damaging our DNA and preventing it from being repaired. Alcohol can also increase the level of oestrogen in the body and this may be how alcohol causes breast cancer. Alcohol can cause cirrhosis of the liver and this in turn causes liver cancer.

Finally, alcohol reduces the amount of folate in our blood. Folate is a B vitamin that our cells use to create new DNA correctly. Lack of folate can lead to mistakes in DNA and this may lead to cancer.

Alcoholism is not quite the problem it is in Malaysia the way that smoking is. Nevertheless, with our new affluence and the way we tend to binge, we may soon be on par with the first world.

The incidence of mouth cancer is high in Malaysia. There is a high incidence of concurrent smoking and drinking alcohol among the victims. Liver cancer is very common in persons infected with hepatitis B or C virus. With alcoholism, the risks will be greater.

In the UK, a study estimated that alcohol causes 2,000 breast cancer cases a year (out of a total of 44,000 cases). Alcoholism is not a big problem among women in Malaysia at present. However, one can never know what the future holds with the lifestyle trends we are witnessing today.

Drink by all means and be merry. But drink wisely and be the aesthete, not the alcoholic. If your buy a basketball ticket from, at chicago bulls tickets or portland trail blazers tickets or dallas mavericks tickets, dont bring a wagon of alcohol in the stadium..... ;-)

att: also has tickets for the chicago bulls and the portland trail blazers and the dallas mavericks tickets..enjoy your sport without an alcohol....!!!

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