Health Update

Alcohol, Liver Disease And The Mediterranean Diet

After a three-year analysis, a group of experts made up of health professionals from various medical disciplines, nurses and patients have concluded that the future health of Europeans is related to a fundamental change in the way of preventing, diagnosing, and treating liver diseases. This way is to put alcohol and obesity under strict control, for example, by recommending the elimination of wine in meals, typical of the Mediterranean diet.

Every year, almost 300,000 people from liver problems. Many of them could have lived longer and healthier lives since, in most cases, liver disease is preventable.

Obesity is behind non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is the fastest-growing liver disease in Europe, with one in four people suffering from it.

Regarding alcohol, Europe has the highest rates of alcohol consumption per person, the highest prevalence of episodic heavy drinking, and the lowest rates of alcohol abstinence in the world.

Alcohol-related liver disease is the most common type, causing at least 50% of cirrhosis cases, and is the most common indication for liver transplantation in Europe.

In Europe, chronic liver diseases have a substantial impact on young and middle-aged individuals in their prime working years, with the peak age of death occurring in the late 40s and early 50s.

Prohibition law or Mediterranean diet

One of the main recommendations of the expert committee to control the effects of alcohol is:

  • introduce a minimum price of 1 euro/cL of pure alcohol in all EU countries
  • an appropriate increase in taxes on alcohol.
  • protect children from the marketing of alcohol and high-fat foods by banning their advertising in all social and digital media.

In Spain, a few months ago, there was a recommendation from the health authorities to remove alcohol from menus in restaurants and make it optional. The response from the lobbies came and broad social sectors did not wait.

And it is that the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle have long been recognized as an example of health. The truth is that science still does not know which components of this diet, or their combinations, have a beneficial impact.

Most explanations of the positive effects of the Mediterranean-style diet, and of the French paradox, have largely focused on the beneficial properties of antioxidants in foods and red wine.

Despite some doubts, there is reasonable unanimity among researchers regarding the beneficial effects of moderate wine consumption on cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, and longevity, which have been attributed to the polyphenolic compounds and resveratrol present in the wine

Confusion among consumers

Despite this, there are findings on the impact of alcohol consumption on human health, such as a recent review on a liver disease that found that any level of alcohol intake can be detrimental to liver health. These conflicting conclusions, along with various misconceptions about moderate alcohol consumption, have led to much confusion among consumers.

According to the health authorities, alcohol consumption must be measured in the Standard Drinking Unit (UBE), which in Spain is equivalent to 10 grams of ethanol (ethanolic alcohol) or, which is the same, a glass of wine (100 cc) or a beer cane (200cc).

Based on this, it is established that a prudential consumption within the Mediterranean diet pattern would be, for men, up to 21 glasses of wine or beer per week and for women up to 14 UBE per week.

Anything that exceeds these amounts increases the risk to health. A risk drinker is also considered one who consumes a large amount of alcohol in a short time; that is, five or more alcoholic beverages (four mixed drinks, or four pints of beer plus two mixed drinks, for example) on a single occasion or in a short period of time (hours), at least once a month.

This behavior, which is a high risk, is what some young people in Spain and other European countries currently have.

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