Time to put that beer down…

In my quest to give up cancer for Lent, this is the day I have been dreading. It’s one thing to talk about vegetables, which I manage fairly well, giving up a bit of red meat is not such a big deal and, despite bitching about the lack of availability (which I may have solved thanks to some facebook conversations out of that post), I do pretty well with whole grains.

Today, however, I have to tackle the topic of alcohol.

Now, I’m no booze hound… but I love wine. I like it with dinner, I like it with desert, I like it with cheese, I like it without anything at all. I am also freely admit I am a beer snob. I shun Labatt’s or Molson for something with a little flavour. I like stout. I like porter. I like ales. I like beer.

To compound the problem, The Husband has become pretty damn great at making wine and beer. There are shelves of boxes in the basement calling to me. ‘Come sit in front of the fire with a nice glass of wine’ or ‘it’s been a long day, pour a beer and relax,’ they say. It’s really not right to ignore them you know.

Now, to be fair. An anti-cancer diet doesn’t mean I have to become a teetotaller. Beer and wine both have some pretty great cancer fighting properties. Red wine is rich in phytophenols which are believe to have anti-cancer properties, both attacking and preventing tumours. One study showed men who drank 4 glasses a week had 60% lower incidences of aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

Beer has similar benefits. As I mentioned when I made my beer-braised pot roast the hops used in making beer has xanthohumol, a compound that inhibits the enzymes which trigger cancer. It is found in all beers but more prevalent in the meatier beers like stout and porter (I guess that means the triple-hopped red ale The Husband made recently is my favorite for a reason). There are even researchers developing a cancer fighting beer… wouldn’t that be wonderful?

That’s the good news. The bad news is that 3% of cancers can be directly related to alcohol consumption. Some studies show alcohol can potentially be a carcinogen, even with relatively low levels of consumption. Unfortunately, it is not clear cut. One study showed beer increased the risk of lung cancer but red wine reduced it. Other studies show alcohol increases the risk of mouth, esophageal and liver cancers. The risk of breast cancer also increases with alcohol consumption.

The Global Report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends avoiding alcohol altogether. It does, however, admit to evidence that alcohol can lower the risk of heart disease so it adds that, if people choose to drink alcohol, they should do so in moderation. They suggest no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one for women.

I have to admit this one confuses me. What is moderation? One drink a day seems like a lot actually… but does that mean never have two… or is it okay to have three at a party if you didn’t have any in the past week? There is no cut and dry answer. I guess, in the end, it is just like red meat… a bit is manageable, just don’t go overboard.

I guess those bottles calling to me from the basement will have to age a bit before they get drunk.

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