Don't forget your liver

Try not to be swayed by medical reports. Wine’s a great drink to have, especially with a woman. You’ll not make an ass of yourself as you might after a whisky too many.

Sourish Bhattacharyya        Print Edition: Feb 8, 2009

In the best of times, I find medical stories a bit over the top. When I used to cover the medical beat—yes, it’s true, I was first exposed to French wine at a preventive cardiology conference in Montreal—scientists would complain of how the media highlighted only the sensational parts of their research papers and overlooked the caveats and counterpoints.

Sourish Bhattacharyya is Executive Editor, Mail Today
Sourish Bhattacharyya
Maybe that’s why we are in a state of informed confusion. We were told that eggs are bad and then we read that we should have an egg a day. We were raised in the sure knowledge that our diet must be at least 30 per cent carbohydrate, and then we were told all carbs were bad. Now the jury seems to favour “good carbs” over “bad carbs”.

The provocation for my present rant is the new report from the World Cancer Research Fund in Britain—as reported by The Daily Telegraph, London—that a large glass of wine daily ups the risk of liver and bowel cancer by 20 per cent. Whoa! What happened to wine, especially red wine, being beneficial for the heart? Didn’t cardiologists prescribe two glasses of red wine a day to their patients?

But there are other questions that need to be addressed, too. Like—how does one define a large glass of wine? The safe measure used to be 240 ml, or two standard glasses of wine that added up to a third of a regular bottle of wine. Does the new research finding mean we must abandon this comfort zone for the sake of our livers? Are we within a mental green zone if we have a generously poured glass of a wine just once a week, or maybe twice? The real problem here is that medical research stories make for sexy headlines but, for the lay reader, they’re very difficult to interpret.

So long as she eats some papaya every morning, she’ll be fine
So long as she eats some papaya every morning, she’ll be fine
Now, just in case you’ve read the World Cancer Research Fund study and are wracked by the fear of impending doom, here is my take on the subject—it’s time to stop drinking wine in the hope of improving your health. That’s some sales spiel that doesn’t tell you wine is essentially alcohol, which causes changes in the DNA to accelerate the process of liver damage. All the benefits you’re expecting from red wine you can find in green tea, without threatening your liver.

But there are other benefits that wine offers. It’s a great drink to have with a woman—chances are she’ll enjoy it and you’ll not make an ass of yourself, as I’ve seen many doing after having one whisky too many. It’s a mood elevator and the best drink to have with a meal, especially if you have others for company. Your liver doesn’t come into it.

Of course, if you’re drinking anything alcoholic, you should draw the line. Drink a little (that’s why I loved the two-glass limit), though, maybe not daily. Don’t drink on an empty stomach and keep nibbling as you go. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the experience all your life. And if you have any doubts, have a healthy portion of a papaya every morning. I am told it’s an effective remedy against any damage caused by alcohol. All things in moderation!

—Sourish Bhattacharyya is Executive Editor, Mail Today

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