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Alcohol vs. COVID Vaccination: When the Science Does Not Suit Us We Question It

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Alcohol vs. COVID Vaccination

WARNING: My enjoying playing ‘devil’s advocate’ has been pointed out on many occasions—it makes for thought-provoking writing.

I assume you are aware of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) having issued revised alcohol consumption guidelines. The new guidelines, released after a two-year research project funded by Health Canada, are shocking, which the media, not surprisingly, has taken full advantage of. Media coverage of the findings was spun to scare even casual drinkers straight, so it elevates above all the current “news noise” contributing to our constant anxiety. (e.g., runaway inflation, the Russia-Ukraine War, the U.S. hit its debt ceiling)

It is as if all the mainstream media outlets gathered for a brainstorming session and decided, “Hey, it’s a new year; why not create a new health crisis?” Nothing keeps the collective angst elevated and everyone addicted to the news, like a continuous flow of health crises.

CCSA’s 89-page report can be summarized as follows:

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“We now know even a small amount of alcohol can be damaging to health. Research shows that no amount or kind of alcohol is good for your health.”

This is a 360-degree change from Canada’s former alcohol consumption guidelines, released in 2011. The 2011 guidelines defined as “low risk” up to 10 drinks per week (no more than two per day) for women and up to 15 drinks per week (no more than three per day) for men.

At this point, there are two things about me you need to know:

  1. I am far from what you would call a teetotaller, especially during my younger days, and
  2. My firsthand experience has taught me that people drink primarily for reasons of social interaction (liquid courage), not because it is nutritious.

I get it; the CCSA has a duty to provide information that they feel is in the public’s best interest when it comes to making informed decisions about one’s health. I also understand that media outlets now find themselves in a new world order requiring they dramatically change their business model. Understandably media outlets will do whatever they feel is necessary to keep us habituated to the news—they need our eyeballs for ad revenue.

The media’s behaviour is not what concerns me. I have come to expect their constant “crisis spins.” What concerns me is what I am hearing and not hearing from those around me and seeing on my social media feeds. Those who uncivilly freaked out when anyone questioned the science behind COVID vaccines are questioning the science used by the CCSA to revise Health Canada’s alcohol consumption guidelines.

This, “I will question, even denounce, any science that does not suit me,” hypocrisy is telling of our society where most of us go along to get along.

For your reference:

In 2020/2021, according to Statistics Canada, liquor authorities sold 3,180 million litres of alcoholic beverages to Canadians of legal drinking age, an equivalent of 9.7 drinks per week per Canadian.

In the coming months, it will be interesting to see whether Canadians who followed the government’s vaccine guidelines because they believed in the science will now follow Health Canada’s new guidelines to limit their alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per week.

Will bars become dispensers of club soda and non-alcoholic fruit cocktails?

Will liquor stores be shutting their doors and joining the ‘For Lease’ retail landscape?

Will grocery stores be emptying their shelves of alcoholic beverages and stocking the new shelf space with gluten-free offerings?

Will the Canadian government see a dramatic decline in alcohol sales, a significant source of government revenue, along with other vices they tax (gambling, cigarettes), forcing them to raise taxes elsewhere to maintain the money flowing into Ottawa’s coffers?

.. or will Canadians shrug their shoulders and keep raising glasses of beer, wine and hard liquor, saying to themselves, “What does the CCSA know? I bet their studies were commissioned by the Dairy Farmers of Canada.”

Yes, deciphering the science is difficult, especially when filtered through mainstream media which greatly benefits keeping you and me in a constant state of anxiousness. Nevertheless, because of the science the media reported, most Canadians quickly rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated and then boosted. Only a small percentage of Canadians questioned the vaccine’s science and possible side effects down the road. Those who were, for lack of a better word, brave enough to challenge the science publicly or said they were not comfortable getting vaccinated were pummeled with insults, labelled negatively, had their beliefs and values ridiculed and were ostracized by family and friends and their employer. The civil dialogue never took place.

Why are those who are publicly saying they will be ignoring Health Canada’s new alcohol consumption guidelines not being publicly burned at the stake?

Unvaccinated Canadians and those who went out in public unmasked experienced outrage, which their attackers justified by claiming that their “rebellious” behaviour (READ: Exercising their right to body autonomy.) was burdening hospitals. If the media is to be believed, those who refuse to get vaccinated and/or wear a facemask are bringing Canada’s healthcare system to its knees.

Many will argue; if a person decides to drink, that is their business. The logic being drinking is not contagious like COVID. Point taken. However, assuming CCSA’s science is credible, and therefore alcohol is literally poison, I would expect people to be upset about all the drinking Canadians who are using Canada’s taxpayer-funded healthcare system to treat illnesses and diseases that could have been prevented if they had abstained from alcohol, according to the science presented by the CCSA.

Where is the outrage against those who continue to smoke in 2023, despite decades of undeniable science that has clearly said smoking kills? It is inevitable that those who smoke end up using Canada’s healthcare system more than Canadians who take their health seriously.

The non-existent outrage against those who question CCSA’s science or dismiss it outright is mind-boggling hypocrisy. No wonder there is so much discourse when hypocrisy has become the norm.

Undeniably, most health issues Canadians face and seek treatment for through our healthcare system are preventable. There is no doubt that a person’s lifestyle choices have a direct impact on their health. Hence, are not all unhealthy lifestyle choices deserving of outrage, judgment, condemnation, and ostracization? Or is cherry-picking which science to believe—namely, the science that suits us—the new thing?

I am curious to see how much alcohol Canadians will consume in 2023.

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Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan

Health

Good Oral Health Crucial in People with Sickle Cell Anemia, Study Finds – Oral Health

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iStock

A new study from Saudi Arabia found that good dental health is vital for people with sickle cell anemia (SCA). The findings observed that multiple disease-causing bacteria were seen much more in the patients with poorer oral health than those with better oral health.

Patricia Valerio, PhD, noted, “The findings also indicated that patients with low levels of hemoglobin F – a type of hemoglobin normally produced during fetal development – had a significantly higher prevalence of harmful bacteria species than those who had higher levels of the protein.”

This research shows how important good oral hygiene is for patients with SCA and low hemoglobin F.

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Read more about this study from Sickle Cell Disease News.


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Respiratory viruses on decline: Province – Brandon Sun – The Brandon Sun

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Hospitalizations due to influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have all decreased in Manitoba, according to the province’s latest epidemiological respiratory virus surveillance report.

Data for the week of Jan. 15 to Jan. 21 indicates this respiratory virus season may finally be nearing its end, after it began earlier than usual and caused surges of severe illness and hospitalizations, particularly among babies and toddlers.

There were two flu-related hospital admissions that week, none requiring intensive care, while the Influenza A test positivity rate fell to 0.8 per cent, compared with 1.9 per cent the previous week. No cases of Influenza B have been detected provincially yet this season.

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There were 105 detected cases of RSV, with a weekly RSV test positivity rate of 8.3 per cent. The previous week, the test positivity rate for RSV was 8.7 per cent.

There were seven patients with COVID-19 in hospital, as well as three in intensive care. No new COVID deaths were reported, but the province retroactively updated its COVID-19 death toll. There were 15 deaths added to the total count last week, for an overall number of 316 Manitobans who lost their lives to COVID since this fall.

» Winnipeg Free Press

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Curious about intermittent fasting? Here's what experts say you should know – CBC.ca

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The Dose21:36What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is becoming more widely discussed, with research still emerging. This week, Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist and expert on intermittent fasting, shares his tips on who should fast and how to do it.

Intermittent fasting (IF) isn’t a new way to eat, but researchers and experts say it’s an area that has potential. 

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It is important to know that research on intermittent fasting “is still in its infancy,” said Amy Kirkham, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s clinical cardiovascular health department. She has also led several studies on time-restricted eating, a form of IF. 

Intermittent fasting is generally defined as the cycle of eating and then fasting. 

The length of fasting can vary, depending on the person or approach. 

“The idea is not deprivation or to go into excess, but to balance the feeding and the fasting because both are very essential for us,” Dr. Jason Fung, a nephrologist and author of several books on IF, told CBC’s The Dose guest host Dr. Peter Lin.

Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian based in Richmond Hill, Ont., says that intermittent fasting is “like a reset” for our bodies. The break from eating prompts our bodies to cleanse itself and get rid of more old cells, she adds. 

Fung and others say there is some promising research showing the health benefits of IF, like improved cardiovascular health.

Research has shown that many of the health benefits of fasting are usually seen between the 14 to 16-hour mark, says Allidina. 

“Studies have shown that during this time that you’re fasting, [it] can have really important markers in your metabolic health, for example with cholesterol, with blood sugars and inflammation. So it can really help with lowering those levels,” she said. 

But before you even consider fasting, Allidina and Fung emphasized that it isn’t for everyone. 

So if you’re interested, here’s what experts say you should know about intermittent fasting.

Is it safe?

For most people, it is absolutely safe to pause eating for periods of time, says Allidina. 

“Giving your body that break is absolutely OK and it’s actually good for you,” she said.

Those who shouldn’t try intermittent fasting are:

  • Anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
  • Anyone who is underweight or malnourished.
  • Pregnant women. 
  • Women who are breastfeeding.
  • Children. 

Allidina and Fung recommend speaking with your health-care provider before trying intermittent fasting.

Is there only one way to intermittently fast?

There are several different approaches to intermittent fasting. 

Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a common way as it limits when you eat your meals and snacks to a specific time period.

Experts say there aren’t hard and fast rules with intermittent fasting and that it can be adapted to your work or social schedule. (Mediteraneo/Adobe Stock)

Fung says the most common fasting strategy is 16 hours of fasting and eating within an eight-hour time period. 

“So you might eat for example from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. or you might do it early, say 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. There’s various ways to do it, but that’s one of the more popular schedules,” he said.

Another approach is the 5:2 method, where you eat normally for five days and then restrict calories two days a week to about 500 calories a day for women and 600 calories for men. 

Alternate day fasting, or ADF, is when someone consumes food during an eight-hour period and then doesn’t eat the next day, which translates to roughly 36 hours of fasting. 

Fung adds there is flexibility with intermittent fasting.

“There’s pluses and minuses of all of those strategies. So it’s not like one is right and one is wrong. It’s finding what really works for you,” he said.

Are there health benefits?

Yes, but it depends on the length of the fast and fasting type.

Anecdotally, Fung and Allidina have heard from people who tried intermittent fasting that they feel more alert and energized, and less tired.

Research on other health benefits is varied. 

University of Illinois researchers who published a review of clinical trials found that the three major types of intermittent fasting — TRE, the 5:2 diet and ADF — can cause “mild to moderate weight loss” in those who were overweight and obese. 

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They said that mild to moderate weight loss was a change of about one to eight per cent from baseline. But, they said ADF and the 5:2 diet are “the only fasting approaches that produce clinically significant weight loss,” according to their review published in the peer-reviewed Annual Review of Nutrition journal in 2021.

They went on to say that these regimens “may also improve” some aspects of cardiometabolic health such as blood pressure.

Korean researchers who published their systemic review and meta-analysis in the peer-reviewed Nutrients journal in 2020 found that time-restricted eating can help some shed some pounds and have better cardiovascular health. 

Fung says people may lose weight while fasting because the body uses two different types of energy: sugar and fat. 

When the body runs out of glucose (the main type of sugar in the blood), it’ll turn to fat stores, a process known as metabolic switching. 

Yet, there is research — including a study published a week ago in the Journal of the American Heart Association — that suggests intermittent fasting approaches may not be better for weight loss than restricting calories. 

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year showed that among 139 obese participants, time-restricted eating with calories restricted was “not more beneficial” than daily calorie restriction. 

Other researchers who led a randomized clinical trial and published results in 2020 found that time-restricted eating did not show significantly different weight loss nor cardiometabolic benefits compared to the controlled group. 

In another study published in 2017 in the peer-reviewed JAMA, researchers did not find alternate-day fasting better for weight loss or weight maintenance compared with daily calorie restriction. 

Kirkham says more studies on intermittent fasting are needed.

“We certainly do need more research to really fully understand all the different parameters and its potential health effects and certainly its safety within specific populations,” said Kirkham, who was recently awarded funding by Diabetes Canada to research which intermittent fasting period best impacts blood-sugar control.

More research is needed on intermittent fasting approaches, especially on the long-term effects, according to several researchers who have published studies.

If I want to try it out, how can I start?

Before anyone starts intermittent fasting, Allidina suggests people ensure their diet is full of essential nutrients.

“Once that’s done, then you can bring in the intermittent fasting slowly, starting with the 12-hour fasting and increasing it up to 14 to 15 to see how you feel with that,” she said. 

Poster of Canada's Food Guide in Misty Rossiter's office.
Before you start intermittent fasting, registered dietitian Dr. Anar Allidina recommends making sure your diet is made up of healthy foods and essential nutrients. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

She adds that fasting doesn’t need to happen every single day in the beginning, as it will take time to build it into your schedule.

There are also free apps that can help people keep track of their intermittent fasting, Kirkham says.

Most people cope with the eating schedule change after that first week, she adds. When starting out, it’s important to remember that minor symptoms like headaches, feeling hungry or irritability are common.

“It may be a bit of a shock to the system initially, but I think if you try it for two weeks … and if you don’t feel better then maybe you have your answer,” said Kirkham.

“Like any health intervention, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.”

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