Doc’s Talk 09-30-2012

Dr. Scaff talked about alcohol and beer.

Dr. Scaff spoke about two significant studies that took place following World War 2:  The Honolulu Heart Study and the Japanese American Study.   The results were interesting.

The studies showed that individuals who drank 1 – 3 drinks per day lived longer than those who did not drink at all.  When people hear this they say, “How can you prove that?”  Well, there are groups that don’t drink at all (e.g. religious groups) and they buy life insurance like everybody else, and you can measure the results in different groups.  The point is, the data is fairly good.

When researchers started to look at the data, they found out that people who drank red wine had less heart disease.  Then they said it was the resveratrol in the wine.  Well that’s great, now you didn’t have to drink, and everybody started taking resveratrol (one of the supplements from the red wine skins you can buy), …and it didn’t make any difference at all.  Then they found out that people who drank white wine lived as long as the red wine drinkers.  They also found out that port-wine, skid row, alcoholics lived as long as anybody else, if they did not smoke, do other drugs, or get hit by a car while they were sleeping in the streets.  That was the Framingham Study and it was really quite shocking.

Alcohol In Moderation Is Beneficial
The studies then found that ALL types of alcohol were beneficial in moderation.  Then they said it was because it raises HDL.  It does raise HDL but there are 3 kinds of HDL, and the one it raises is the one that is not supposed to work, …but it works.  So the assumption should be that any type of HDL is good for you.  That has not really made the literature, but it works!  The bottom line is alcohol in moderation IS beneficial.

Alcohol, like cocaine and everything else, is a drug.  None of these drugs, when consumed in substance abuse, are good for us.

Alcohol has been used for embalming fluid.  If you want to see what it really feels like take a shot of whisky and pour it in your eye.  You will see how powerful it is.  As a matter of fact, one of the Hawaiian kings died during a trip overseas and they put him in a rum barrel to preserve him as they brought him home.  The funny thing is when they got him back to the islands the rum barrel was half empty.  Where did it go?

Behavior and Alcohol
We worry about substance abuse and alcohol abuse, but if you read Your First Marathon – The Last Word In Long Distance Running, by Jack H. Scaff Jr., M.D., F.A.C.S.M., (available for purchase at the Honolulu Marathon Clinic on Sundays and online at:, you will find references to the fact that people who have had problems with alcohol, who drink regularly, tend to handle alcohol in a more rational fashion.  Also, we know that behavior under alcohol is learned.  Here in the U.S. we cannot serve alcohol on the beaches because we get into arguments.  Down in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on New Year’s Eve, with two million people on the beach drinking whatever they want all they want, there is no violence at all, the reason being is they know what the prisons are like, they don’t want to go to them.  Same thing in Mexico.  In Tijuana in a bar, the worst thing that will happen is a Mexican will go to sleep on your shoulder, they will never pick a fight with you, …whereas the gringos might.  If you go to Europe you know that boys and girls are allowed to drink beer at the age of 14 and they do not seem to have a big problem.  The reason being is one DUI and you will never drive a car again.  Here in the U.S. with 14–15 DUIs we let you out, then you kill a bunch of people, then we take your license away.  So, behavior modification works.

Also, it has been shown that most artists, especially musicians and writers tend to use alcohol regularly.  So in moderation it seems to be ok.

In Moderation
Now, what is moderation?  New data: Alcohol in moderation is 1 – 3 drinks for a large grown man, 1 – 2 for women.  If you have read in the papers recently, a drink a day during pregnancy does not cause fetal malformation.  Of course, if you have it then you blame it on the alcohol, but that is the leftovers of a very pristine society.

Alcohol Allergies
Some people turn red when they drink.  It means they are allergic to alcohol.  There are two alcohol dehydrogenates in the liver, if you are missing one you turn red when you drink, if you are missing both you die when you drink.  That is probably one of the reasons we have a little lower alcohol consumption in Hawaii.

The Benefits of Alcohol
In Chapter 26 of Your First Marathon – The Last Word In Long Distance Running“ABC’s of Beer:  Alimentation Benefique; or just a Brew-ha-ha in a Bottle & the Origins of Civilization as We Know it”, the results of research done at the University of California Davis are documented.  People who drink the right kind of beer, which happens to be highly hops, highly hops beers which are ales, top fermented, not Lager, bottom fermented, demonstrated the following health benefits which we will call the ABC’s of Beer:

A:  Alzheimer’s disease
People who drink a bottle of ale a day have 37% less Alzheimer’s disease.  Ask somebody who is starting to develop senile dementia if they drank beer regularly.  Most will say, “Oh, I drank red wine,” or “I don’t drink at all.”  Very interesting association.  Hard data.

B:  Bones
Women who drink 1 bottle of ale a day do not develop osteopenia or osteoporosis.  But it has to be done all along, you can’t wait until your bones are ready to break and then say, “I’ll have a beer.”  It doesn’t work that way.  And, ales are as good as the bisphosphonates, like Fosamax, which cause old brittle bones.  Those who take bisphosphonates develop abnormal fractures, fractures in the jaw, abnormal fractures in the hip bone, the femur.  You will note that Fosamax has a black box warning.  Beer does not have a black box warning; it says it may interfere with equipment and driving, things like that.  In Chapter 26 there is a whole breakout on bisphosphonates, beer, and black box warnings.

At the bottom of the beer label, it says that if taken properly, beer is beneficial.  If you overdose on beer and fall off your barstool and break your hip, it will at least be a healthy bone.

C:  Cataracts
People who drink an ale a day are 50% less likely to develop cataracts.

Health Benefits = Hops
It turns out it is not the alcohol that gives the health benefits, it is the hops, which contains silicone, which you can buy over the counter.  Silicone replaces trans-heme which is the protein that carries iron to the bone marrow.  It also carries aluminum to the brain, and silicone replaces those empty spots on the trans-heme and thus helps you get rid of aluminum.  Some people feel aluminum is related to Alzheimer’s.  It may not be, but people with Alzheimer’s do have a higher percentage of aluminum in the brain and that aluminum does not come from pots and pans, it comes from everywhere.

So it is the hops.  You can go to the animal feed store and get hops, it is a byproduct of making beer.  They take it and they sell it as animal feed.  It is really good, it is just sort of gross to buy it in these 25 pound bags.

Vegemite, from Australia, is made out of the same thing.  Aussies love it!  It is healthful.  You can take beer and you can make beer bread out of it, and there are a bunch of things you can do so you don’t have to drink the alcohol, because it is the hops that is in it.

So to Dr. Scaff it makes sense to consider all this as part of a diet if you are going to drink.  Why not drink something that is good for you, like a bottle of ale.  The best ales are the IPAs (India Pale Ale).  Before the days of refrigeration, in order to keep the beer from spoiling, as the ships went from Britain to India and places like that they had to add extra hops.  It is very bitter.  If you have been raised on Coor’s or Miller, or Budweiser, you’ve never had a beer so you don’t know what real beer tastes like.  If you find the ale too bitter you can dilute it.  Buy light beer and you pay somebody to put 50% water in it for the same cost as undiluted beer.  But you can take an ale and pour it over ice and you get 2 or 3 glasses for the price of 1.  You are not hurting yourself, you are hurting the beer companies because they don’t want you to know that.

So whether or not you drink alcohol is a personal choice. If you have had a problem, you should not, if you are allergic you should not, if you do not believe in it you shouldn’t because you can get the health benefits other ways. The thing to look for would be the byproducts after the malting process as those would be equally healthy.  Nobody has ever done a study on that, so Dr. Scaff has a call in to the University of Hawaii Department of Nutrition to look into the byproducts.

Hopefully in all of this discussion, we’ve put the issue of alcohol and beer into perspective.

Next Sunday Dr. Scaff will talk about supplements.

For some good reading on nutrition, Dr. Scaff recommends everyone check out the daily postings on Dr. Alan Titchenal’s “Got Nutrients?” web site:

Here is a recent posting:

September 29, 2012
More physical activity and less time spent sitting are associated with a lower prevalence of chronic kidney disease. Too much sitting time is most risky for women and low physical activity is more risky for men.

Consumer Link
Stand up – or your kidneys could suffer

Research Link
Am J Kidney Dis. 2012 Oct;60(4):583-90.