Sputnik: How significant is this story?
Mayur Ranchordas: The story is quite significant really, because the take home message is there is no safe level of drinking, contradictory to what we’ve always been told that moderate drinking is healthy and will reduce things like the risk of heart attacks. Now we’re being told that there no such things as moderate amounts as it causes cancer and other complications.
Mayur Ranchordas: As always, more research is always needed and that this is a long term study. If we look at the story on alcohol and we go back quite a few years, the guidelines were that moderate amounts of drinking is good for you and then a couple of years ago the chief medical officer revised the alcohol guidelines, higher for men and lower for women, to 14 units. Now as we generate more and more data on the effects of alcohol, health and disease; we are finding out that potentially 14 units could be detrimental. I think the other thing is that we have to look at is when you ask people, most people underreport how much they drink – that’s the other issue. People will say they drink 14 units when they actually drink 25. I think the problem we have here is that we do need more data, but the picture is that alcohol isn’t healthy for you and even 14 units potentially over the longer term is potentially harmful.
Mayur Ranchordas: That’s a really good question. We have to look at this study as a bigger holistic picture, rather than just talking about alcohol alone. For example you could abstain from alcohol completely and live a very sedentary lifestyle and have a very poor diet and you will still increase the risk factor for disease and health complications. You could have someone who drinks 14 units a week, partakes in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to rigorous exercise a day, eat a very healthy and balanced diet, who could easily live into their 90s and 100s. I think the take home message is that know that alcohol offers a big social side, especially in in Britain and that in certain European counties alcohol is part and parcel of social and meal times, so I think what we’ve got to do is that we know there is safe level of drinking and we know that it’s probably not a good idea to exceed over 14 units a week; so the take home message for me is that make sure you are physically active, eat a well-balanced diet, make sure you’ve got a good work balance and then if you’re having your 14 units it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Alcohol is the culprit and that’s the only thing is, I think, a very one dimensional approach because we know that health disease is a multi-factorial and you have to look at everything together rather than in isolation.