Science

Alcohol: no level without danger to health, even on the terrace

There is no threshold below which alcohol is without risk to health, assert experts while many French people are delighted to be able to once again have a drink on the terrace in these times of Covid.

“Any consumption – even low – has a deleterious effect on health”, they underline in a report of “collective expertise” of Inserm, published Friday, on the reduction of the damage associated with alcohol, which consume nearly of 43 million people in France.

Consumption levels remain high, especially among young people, while in France there are “41,000 deaths per year (including 11,000 women) for a social cost estimated at 118 billion euros”, they note in this document of 700 pages, with recommendations.

They therefore recommend tightening up the Evin law of 1991, “considerably weakened” in recent years, by banning advertising on the internet and in the public space, and increasing the price (by taxing drinks per gram of alcohol or with a minimum price as in Scotland).

They also suggest “reducing the availability of alcohol” (via the sales time slots and the number of shops or licenses) and “recalling the low-risk consumption benchmarks” (no more than 2 drinks per day and not every day) as well as “the greatest biological vulnerability of women to alcohol”.

Experts also deplore that “the resources allocated” to fight against this burden are not “up to the stakes”.

According to two studies, regular consumption (10 or more times per month) concerns one in ten young people in second year and one in four young people in terminal.

The over-50s are not left out: since 2013, their level of alcohol consumption has increased, in particular episodes of “heavy occasional alcoholism” (express drinking or binge drinking) and risky alcohol consumption. (more than two glasses daily).

This new expertise was carried out at the request of the Directorate General for Health and the Interministerial Mission for the fight against drugs and addictive behavior (Mildeca). The previous one dated from 2001.

Alcohol consumption is directly or indirectly responsible for around sixty diseases, including cancers such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. It is also the first cause of hospitalization and the second cause of avoidable death in France (after tobacco), remind the experts, who deny it any protective effects.

“We must stop saying that it’s good for the heart,” says Mickaël Naassila, Inserm researcher of the Alcohol and Drug Dependence Research Group in Amiens, about red wine.

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