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jeudi, 27 septembre 2012



Claude Gilois


All publications in this blog are free from copyright and can be republished, modified within any reference to the originals. 

Since the WHO established their guidelines, there has been a pretty well accepted consensus on what was considered safe or minimum risk alcohol consumption by the medical profession (21 units for men and 14 for women).

This is now beginning to change. The first major breach in this consensus and the most amazing, came from the French Cancer Institute which in December 2007 published on its internet site a 57 page scientific document entitled ‘Alcohol and the risk of cancer: 'A review of the scientific data and recommendation on its public health issues '[1]. Its conclusions were far reaching: 

  1. There was no safe or minimum risk of alcohol consumption. The danger started with the first glass. 
  2. Alcohol was implicated in several types of cancer (pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, colon, liver etc).
  3. There was a plausible mechanism by which the cancer was induced, in particular through the presence in the blood of acetaldehyde which is a cancer inducing substance but not yet confirmed as such officially.
  4. The type of alcohol consumed did not matter.
  5. The cardio-vascular benefits of a moderate alcohol consumption (which are now well accepted by the scientific community) were dismissed by the French Cancer Institute.


The document, which contained some 215 scientific references, was well beyond the comprehension of the vast majority of the population and even for scientists unless specialised in this field. The general press relayed the information, which it presented in an extremely simplified format. 

One would expect that such a comprehensive review would provide a complete survey of the medical and scientific publications on the subject in order to present a balance view of the current state of research. 



Not so!!


1.  It left out some of the most comprehensive publications on the subject, in particular the study of the American Cancer Institute that investigated some 276,802 subjects over 12 years as seen in the previous publication. The French Cancer Institute that does not know what its counterpart in America has done on this subject - most bizarre…and not very credible!!  It also overlooked all publications that confirmed the American Cancer Institute’s study (Gronsbeck et al and Roland et al).

2.  All studies used to compile this ‘scientific paper’ were mostly case-control studies, less precise than cohort studies) The index (the number referred to in the previous publication, which measures risks) were all below 3 for a consumption of moderate level alcohol of 40 g a day (that is just over a half a bottle a day).  A risk below 3 is the level   at which the most eminent epidemiologists advise us to ignore the results as we have seen in the first paper published in this series.

3.  All studies that were examined to make up the report of the National Institute of Cancer were done on smokers and corrected statistically for this variable. Smoking is probably the greatest confounding factor that exists in epidemiological studies as it increases the risk of lung cancer by 3000%.

4. The report from the National Institute of Cancer does not demonstrate the biological mechanism by which a dose of alcohol of 40 g a day (4 glasses of 10 cl) would harm the human body and this is of the utmost importance in epidemiological studies as we have seen, in particular those which report associations below 3. The Cytochome P 4550 is not activated at this level of consumption and acetylaldehyde is not present in the body, as we have seen in the previous articles.

5.  Finally, the report from the National Institute of Cancer ignores several scientific publications that indicate that wine appears to have a definite superiority of over other types of alcoholic drinks. 



The ‘Haute Autorité de la Santé’ subsequently overturned the conclusions of this report but the damage had been done and the general press had largely relayed the conclusion of the report.


This begs the question as to why a document, which amounts to a propaganda document, was published. Some see the hand of a moralistic lobby (rather weak); others the lobby of the agro-chemical industry (very strong) to divert the attention onto alcohol as the noose tightens on pesticides and pollution to explain the rise of cancer over the last 30 years. 


History has shown that public policies based on prohibition have proven to be disastrous but public bodies have had enormous difficulties in promoting sensible drinking rather than prohibition.


Similarly the UK, South Africa and other countries are starting to advise the population to cut down on drinking, to abstain a couple of days a week, but there has not been any major study done on alcohol since the American study so the best possible advice is the one issued by the WHO (21 units a week for men and 14 units for women).



This blog is a collaboration between: 


The main contributor of the blog, Claude Gilois, originally  a biologist, turned fine wine merchant who created,  in the mid 1990, the first business to succeed in selling Non-French wines in France. He classifies himself as a ‘hybrid’ having spent a great number of years in the UK. 


Ricardo Uztarroz is a journalist, former war correspondent and former director of the Agence France Presse for Perou and Columbia. He now a writer   and is the co-author with Claude Gilois of the book ‘Le tour du monde épicurien des vins insolites’. 


Olivier Poussier won the ‘World Best Sommelier’ competition in 2000 and is the buyer for Le Notre as well as being a consultant for the selection of the business and first class for Air France. He is also a consultant  for Tarransaud and a walking encyclopedia. 

[1] « Alcool et risque de cancers : Etat des lieux des données scientifiques et recommandations de santé publique. »

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