Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts
An average student puts away quite a few beers during his or her academic career. The hangover the next day is a drag, but according to many it's otherwise harmless. Worse still, “there is a large group of people who think that a glass of alcohol every day is good for you,” says researcher Latifa Abidi. It is a widespread misconception that she believes is even held by many doctors and FHML researchers.
According to Abidi, the media play a major role here. If, for example, research shows that moderate alcohol consumption by middle-aged people reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, you cannot conclude that alcohol is good for you. Alcohol continues to be a poisonous substance, even in small quantities. It is a carcinogen: there is a direct causal relation between alcohol and the development of various types of cancer: “With every glass of alcohol, even red wine, chances of developing cancer increase”. In addition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) claims that alcohol is causatively related to more than two hundred other diseases and disorders, including psychological disorders such as addiction: “It always starts with a single glass.”
‘If I were to think like that, I shouldn't eat chocolate anymore,’ is a reaction that Abidi often hears when she talks about her research. Admittedly, alcohol can also be positive: it can be nice, it loosens and relaxes you, you talk more easily and suddenly you become a much better dancer. These are all reasons why “people want to believe in the myth,” says Abidi.
The FHML researcher herself doesn't drink alcohol and people sometimes find that strange. “It is normal to drink alcohol in our culture, not drinking alcohol should at least be normal too.” For a large part, this is down to the alcohol industry and the media. They present it as fun, jolly, stylish and festive. Everyone knows the Bacardi Mojito advertisement with the catchy jingle and the partying crowd or the Heineken advertisement where shepherd Rudi is overjoyed when the first snowflakes fall and the skiing season starts.
It may be remarkable, but Abidi is not in favour of a complete ban on alcohol. “That's impossible. I would limit it as much as possible, and if you want to drink one or two glasses, then you have to be fully aware of the risks. In this way, you can make a well-considered decision beforehand. A motorcyclist knows beforehand that there is a chance that he or she might break their neck.” According to Abidi, the government needs to play a bigger role here. “They could launch information campaigns, increase excise duties, and prohibit alcohol advertisements, as is the case with smoking.”