7 facts and 1 myth about alcohol | Science | In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 13.02.2015

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7 facts and 1 myth about alcohol

For decades we've been reading comforting headlines that moderate drinking is good for your health and might even prolong your life. Sorry, a new survey might put an end to that soothing myth.

According to a report published this week in the British Medical Journal, earlier studies proclaiming the health benefits of alcohol might have contained flaws that exaggerated the effects.

While high alcohol consumption has been linked to more than 200 diseases and chronic conditions, some research has suggested that moderate consumption (1-2 drinks per day) may protect against heart disease and help prevent an early death.

ProWein 2013 in Düsseldorf Rotwein Probe

One or two glasses of red wine a day may not be such a good idea after all

In Tuesday's report (10.02.2015), British and Australian researchers say that earlier studies falsified the results in favor of moderate drinking because the studies didn't distinguish between nondrinkers and less healthy former drinkers in the "nondrinker" group.

Alcohol use contributes to diseases including cancer and cirrhosis, and kills 3.3 million people a year, about 6 percent of global deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

So people who like to enjoy a drink every day might reconsider their drinking habits.

Wodka Russland Schnapsfabrik

Vodka has become more expensive in Russia in recent years - but to drinkers, Vladimir Putin's empire is still vodka paradise

Especially in Belarus and Russia. The two Eastern European countries are in the top 5 of countries with heavy alcohol consumption. The average citizen of Belarus consumes 17.5 liters of pure alcohol per year compared to Russians, who down 15.1 liters.

Bierselige deutsche Fans WM 2014

German soccer fans celebrating their winning team during World Cup 2014

Countries like Germany (11.8 liters per year) and the U.K. (11.6 liters per year) are in the mid-field. However, Europeans still drink more than people in North America or in Asia.

Japaner trinkt Bier

A beer-loving Japanese tourist at Munich's Oktoberfest

One explanation could be that some Asians don't have the enzymes to tackle the effect of booze. Or as scientists put it, the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol may be less abundant in some ethnic groups.

Symbolbild Aversion gegen Bier

According to the World Health Organization, women drink less than half the amount of alcohol men consume

Body size and composition are also reasons for the different alcohol tolerance of women. They have less body water than men, which allows for wider distribution of alcohol throughout the body. Women have more fat than water weight, so alcohol is concentrated in a smaller volume, medical doctors explain.

Bildergalerie Oktoberfest in München 2013

Monica (left) and Radhika from India are regulars at the Oktoberfest in the Bavarian capital

In developing countries like China and India, alcohol consumption is on the rise. Men and women in the growing middle class are able to afford imported liquors - like German beer or French wine.

Obsthändler in Nouakchott, Mauretanien

In Islamic countries like Mauretania, tea is the most popular drink. Alcohol is considered "Haram" - unpure and forbidden to Muslims

In North Africa and the Middle East people drink less than anywhere else in the world. In Pakistan, Kuwait, Libya and Mauretania the average consumption is merely 0.1 liters per year.

But why is the Rum gone?

In Pakistan bottles of smuggled alcohol from neighboring India are destroyed on a regular basis