Everybody knows too much alcohol is not good for you, and scientists continue to study behavior, the brain, genetics and psychology to learn more. Last week alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on the negative health effects of binge drinking on adults. That’s against the background that alcohol can be blamed for at least 80,000 deaths in this country every year. For reference purposes, there is a standard definition for a standard drink, and it is a 12-ounce beer, five ounces of wine or, one shot of hard liquor, an ounce and a half of hard liquor. And those would all include the same amount of alcohol, which would be about 0.6 ounces or 14 grams of alcohol. A “safe” amount for a woman is one drink per day, and for men, 2 drinks per day.
Consider this statement from Dr. Robert Brewer, who leads the Alcohol Program at the CDC:
“Now, as far as the scientific evidence on the – I’m going to call them alleged health benefits of moderate drinking. I would say the jury is still out. And the reason I say that is that the studies that have found beneficial effects from moderate drinking, particularly related to heart disease, are all observational studies and therefore are really subject to a lot of what we would call confounding, that is where they might be other factors in addition to the alcohol or instead of the alcohol that are really resulting in the health benefits that people are attributing to alcohol. And the reality is that people who drink moderately, again, up to say one drink a day for a woman, up to two drinks a day for a man, tend to be very different in a lot of ways than people who don’t drink at all. They tend to have better health habits, more likely to exercise, tend to have healthier body weight, tend, if they have high blood pressure, for the blood pressure to be controlled. So there are a lot of known and suspected risk factors for heart disease that tend to be less common in people who are drinking moderately. So I think one has to be very cautious about ascribing the health benefits, and particularly lower risk of heart disease, among moderate drinkers to the alcohol consumption itself.”
And this, from Dr. Bankole Johnson is a professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia:
“I think, actually, the data is fairly complex. I think that one of it is to do with the attribution of groups. But I think it is reasonable to say that individuals who don’t drink at all tend to actually seem – or seem to have higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Now, the exact mechanisms by which these metabolic changes due to alcohol produce an effect that could lower blood pressure or reduce cholesterol are not well-known or established, and they really need further study!”
Additionally, I just finished listening to a very informative podcast from the Science Friday show on NPR. It aired on 1/16/12012, and is entitled, appropriately enough, Deciphering Mixed Messages on Drinking and Health. The link is www.npr.org/2012/01/16/145305298/deciphering-mixed-messages-on-drinking-and-health.