Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Alcohol consumption is always embroiled in controversy with both the protagonists and antagonists having their own views regarding the virtues or dangers from many alcoholic beverage products being offered by the industry. Many believe that moderate consumption of alcohol can be beneficial in the case of many persons and the danger posed by these stimulant products lies in uncontrolled consumption with potential of causing grave injury to the liver. Amongst the alcoholic beverages wine, especially the red variety is considered healthy because of the reported presence of resveratrol and procyanidins in these products. which are both cardio-protective and chemo-protective in human beings. If WHO statistics are any indication Indians seem to be loving their alcohol drinks and there is a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption during the last few years probably due to higher per capita income resulting from economic liberalization. Unfortunately wine products, considered most healthy, are not patronized in India, its share being just 2% of total alcohol consumption.

"Indians love their whisky, vodka and rum but are yet to develop a taste for wine. Spirits make up for 88% of what Indians regularly drink while beer boasts of a 10% share. Wine is only 2% of what Indians love to drink. An average Indian adult (15 years and over) drank 2.6 litres of "pure alcohol" between 2003-05. This was higher than the per capita consumption in the south-east Asia region which stood at 2.2 litres. These are the findings of the World Health Organisation's Global status report on alcohol and health which has analysed alcohol consumption in over 100 countries. In a pattern of drinking score (the higher the score, the greater the alcohol attributable burden of disease for the country), WHO gives India 3 out of 5. It says that India saw a robust increase in recorded adult per capita consumption of alcohol. When it came to only drinkers, the average per capita consumption of pure alcohol of a 15-year-old and above in India between 2003-05 was 22.25 litres (23.93 litres among men and 10.35 litres among women). "The harmful use of alcohol is a worldwide problem resulting in millions of deaths, including hundreds of thousands of young lives lost. It is not only a causal factor in many diseases, but also a precursor to injury and violence," Dr Ala Alwan, assistant DG of WHO, said. The WHO report says that alcohol use results in the death of 2.5 million people annually. Nearly 4% of all deaths are related to alcohol. Most alcohol-related deaths are caused by injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and liver cirrhosis. Globally, 6.2% of all male deaths are related to alcohol, compared to 1.1% of female deaths. Worldwide, 3.2 lakh young people aged 15-29 years die annually from alcohol-related causes, resulting in 9% of all deaths in that age group. Alcohol raises the risk of as many as 60 different diseases, according to a recent study in the medical journal `Lancet'.

Countries like Italy, France, Spain, USA, Argentina and others are in the forefront as far as production and consumption of alcoholic beverages are concerned. Compared to Indians, whose per capita annual consumption is just 2.6 liters, in many industrialized countries the corresponding figure is in the range of 15-18 liters. As for wine consumption, in many countries the per capita consumption figure is around 50 liters but in India it is less than a few milliliters! The apprehension regarding potential health hazard from alcohol consumption in India may be due to limited number of people who have the habit of drinking and per capita figure can be misleading. The reported figures of 22.5 liters amongst regular drinkers in India and 23.93 liters in China may sound an alarm which calls for more efforts to wean hard core drinkers away from this deadly potion!


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