Tournée Minérale is underway: are you up for a month without alcohol?

It’s February and time for Tournée Minérale, a round of mineral water instead of beer!  It’s an annual initiative to get us to think about our alcoholic consumption and the impact on our health.  For a month people taking part won’t be consuming any alcohol!

The level for responsible drinking is getting lower and lower.  Only a couple of years ago a top limit of 21 standard glasses of wine or beer for a man and 14 for a woman a week were promoted as acceptable, responsible drinking.  Today this figure has plummeted to 10 glasses , a level set both for women and men. It’s the safe level promoted by the VAD, the Flemish knowledge centre for alcohol and other drugs.  Drink more and your alcoholic consumption poses a risk to your health. A standard glass equals 10 grams of pure alcohol.   

Scientists promote an even stricter level: as little alcohol as possible, preferably only two glasses and not 10 a week. The VAD says the ten glasses a week rule is a compromise between the science and the reality of society: “Consumption of alcohol is socially acceptable.  It’s the most popular legal drug in Flanders, part of our culture, even though it isn’t a product that isn’t dangerous”.

“Alcohol sedates parts of the brain that control our behaviour and our feelings.  A small amount of alcohol can give us more courage.  Larger amounts reduce our ability to react.  Even more alcohol will reduce our control of movement and coordination”.

The VAD adds that alcoholic consumption also plays an important role in accidents and injuries.

One in six people in Flanders indicate that they are consuming more than the guideline ten glasses a week.  Among the young consumption seems to be falling.  According to VAD one in five youngsters in the 17-to-18-year bracket doesn’t drink alcohol.  It’s above all over 45s that are drinking more than 10 glasses a week.

Alcohol is toxic says Hans Van Vlierberghe, a liver expert at Ghent University Hospital.  “When we talk about smoking there is no discussion.  Smoking kills.  Alcohol too is damaging, but the debate is different because it forms part of society”.

Van Vlierberghe is clear: “Alcohol is a poison that affects your liver till you get a fatal liver cirrhosis”.

Other organs too are affected because infections occur as a reaction to alcohol and in the long term this can heighten your risk of developing a tumour.

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