I bet you are confused about the studies that come out- One says drinking helps your heart health, but then another comes out that says even moderate drinking is harmful. What is the true just right "Goldilocks" number of drinks?
I reviewed the most current data out there and this is my overview:
Two large European studies showed self reported quality of health to be better in those who drank 1-2 drinks/day compared to higher or lower use. It was associated with less sick leave and less risk of disability. Go figure. Maybe those who drank were happier, had more social life, and coped with their jobs better.
When it comes to mortality, there are very mixed studies. There were several studies in the 1990s (in US, Great Britain, Italy, Trinidad, Japan, and China) that showed moderate drinkers had 10-30% less risk of death compared to abstainers. But then later some other studies showed that there really wasn't much benefits and then more mixed results. Then in 2006 a review of 34 studies found that mortality was lowest at an intake of approximately 6 grams of alcohol/day. That's a little less than half glass of wine, or half a pint of beer. And most of the people who benefited most from it were women at greatest risk for coronary heart disease.
We do know that alcohol increases your risk of the following cancers:
breast, gastrointestinal, esophageal, liver, head and neck.
And we do not yet have clear evidence on it's relationship to lung and colorectal cancer, or dementia.
And excess alcohol is risky for many things including pancreatitis, accidents and trauma, and suicide.
On a brighter note, light or moderate use of alcohol may lower the risk of diabetes and gallstones.
Many studies are flawed and even more have confounding factors. We won't ever have the gold standard of the scientific method- the long term randomized controlled trials. So we've got to gather the most information we can and make the best choices for our health. It will come down to an individualized approach.
This is my recommendation:
If you hate the taste of alcohol, don't start drinking.
If you are pregnant, have history of alcoholism, liver or pancreas disease, or stomach and esophagus issues, avoid drinking.
If you love wine or beer or spirits, and have no other risk factors, limit your drinking to at the most 1 drink/day if you are a woman. And 2 drinks/day if you are a man.
But the "Goldilocks" amount of drink is more like 1-3 drinks/week.
Cheers everyone, and check out my health retreat this summer on Whidbey Island, WA - www.islandtrekfitness.com. You will have a blast, but sorry, no alcohol served on the retreat.
Until next time,