The War on Alcohol Part I. | Claim: “No safe level of alcohol consumption”
We used to think it was fun and good for you — but now we know that it’s a . . . . deadly killer??
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Even a Little Alcohol Can Harm Your Health: “Recent research makes it clear that any amount of drinking can be detrimental. Here’s why you may want to cut down on your consumption beyond Dry January.” (Front page, New York Times, January 13, 2023)
“The Pour,” Eric Asimov: “Why London Is One of the Best Places in the World to Drink Wine. You can find terrific lists in pubs, bars and all sorts of restaurants in almost any neighborhood.” (New York Times, January 9, 2023)
What’s behind Canada’s drastic new alcohol guidance: “In Canada, it should be Dry January all year round, according to new national recommendations that say zero alcohol is the only risk-free approach.” (BBC News, January 18, 2023)
Sister André, World’s Oldest Known Person, Dies at 118 in France: “The French nun had lived through two world wars and the 1918 flu pandemic. She survived Covid and was said to enjoy a daily dose of wine and chocolate.” (New York Times, January 18, 2023)
Fight Health-Robbing Inflammation. “Science has proven that chronic, low-grade inflammation contributes to cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other conditions. . . . When it comes to inflammation, alcohol can be either your friend or foe. Find out why a little alcohol may be helpful and how much is over the line for keeping inflammation in check.” (Harvard Medical School, January, 2023)
Research over decades on drinking and mortality is wrong! As per the following slew of headlines and quotations (all emphases mine):
American Journal of Epidemiology.
The relationship between ethanol consumption and coronary heart disease was examined in the original Framingham Heart Study cohort (1948) with a 24-year follow-up from exam 2 (2,106 males and 2,639 females). Ethanol consumption shows a strong U-shaped relationship with coronary heart disease mortality for males. . . . The age-adjusted data suggest a U-shape curve for female smokers. . . . Separate analyses relating alcohol consumption to mortality from all causes showed similar effects. . . .
1996: Alcohol and Heart Disease, Circulation.
Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association.
Protective Effects of Alcohol Against CHD
More than a dozen prospective studies have demonstrated a consistent, strong, dose-response relation between increasing alcohol consumption and decreasing incidence of CHD. The data are similar in men and women in a number of different geographic and ethnic groups. Consumption of one or two drinks per day is associated with a reduction in risk of approximately 30% to 50%. Studies of coronary narrowings defined by cardiac catheterization or autopsy show a reduction in atherosclerosis in persons who consume moderate amounts of alcohol. In general, this inverse association is independent of potential confounders, such as diet and cigarette smoking. Concerns that the association could be an artifact due to cessation of alcohol consumption in persons who already have CHD have largely been disproved.
Alcohol, in striking contrast to tobacco and illicit drugs, is linked to an extensively documented J-shaped dose-effect curve, with regular moderate consumption reducing cardiovascular and overall mortality, whereas excessive or binge drinking has the opposite effect. Data indicative of a lower risk of cardiovascular events among moderate drinkers in apparently healthy people are extensive and consistent, whereas the role of alcohol intake among patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) is less clear. . . .
The present review provides reasonable evidence that regular and moderate alcohol intake is significantly associated with a reduction in the incidence of secondary cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in patients with a history of CVD.
2017: Relationship of Alcohol Consumption to All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer-Related Mortality in U.S. Adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Data were obtained by linking 13 waves of the National Health Interview Surveys (1997 to 2009) to the National Death Index records through December 31, 2011. A total of 333,247 participants ≥18 years of age were included. . . . After a median follow-up of 8.2 years (2.7 million person-years), 34,754 participants died of all causes (including 8,947 CVD deaths and 8,427 cancer deaths). Compared with lifetime abstainers, those who were light or moderate alcohol consumers were at a reduced risk of mortality for all causes.
The conclusion by Xi et al. that their study “re-emphasized the existence of a J-shaped curve in the alcohol–mortality association” may look like a religious claim. However, it was not a theological statement, but a robust scientific conclusion. Their work helps clarify the debate over the existence of a J-shaped curve, an issue frequently discussed as a problem of beliefs rather than scientific data.
The number of people involved in their study was impressive, the methodology sound (inclusion of only lifetime abstainers in the reference group), and the statistical approach correct and supported by important ancillary analyses. The results supported the conclusion that the J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality risk cannot be dismissed and should guide the formulation of public policies on alcohol consumption. . . . for most older persons, the overall benefits of light drinking, especially the reduced cardiovascular disease risk, clearly outweigh possible cancer risk.
But we have now learned that this is all nefarious balderdash!
2023: Is There Really No Safe Amount of Drinking? Time Health.
Did you know that alcohol is a known human carcinogen and linked to multiple forms of cancer? If so, you’re in the minority of Americans—but this week’s news cycle may change that.
As you’ve likely seen in the headlines, new health guidance from Canada suggests that the safest amount of alcohol to consume is none. (And if you really must drink, the report suggests having no more than two beverages per week to minimize health risks.) That’s a huge bummer to anyone who likes to consider their nightly glass of wine “healthy,” but it’s not terribly surprising if you’ve been following research on alcohol over the past few years. Back in 2018, I covered a string of studies that came to the same conclusion: even small amounts of drinking aren’t good for you.
Even a Little Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. New York Times.
Sorry to be a buzz-kill, but that nightly glass or two of wine is not improving your health.
After decades of confusing and sometimes contradictory research (too much alcohol is bad for you but a little bit is good; some types of alcohol are better for you than others; just kidding, it’s all bad), the picture is becoming clearer: Even small amounts of alcohol can have health consequences.
Research published in November revealed that between 2015 and 2019, excessive alcohol use resulted in roughly 140,000 deaths per year in the United States.
It’s strange that so many prestigious, exacting studies with consistent results over such a long period were so wrong. But we’ve discovered that all that information about alcohol’s life-preserving benefits was balderdash!
And if it was right? Well, then, the information public health is broadcasting is not only erroneous but dangerous and harmful.
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Stanton’s memoir is A Scientific Life on the Edge: My lonely quest to change how we see addiction