I read this with great interest on the NPR app on my phone this morning: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/03/22/471416356/that-cabernet-might-not-be-good-for-your-health-after-all. I’m a pretty big fan of empirical research, so if well-designed scientific studies show that there is or is not a health benefit or damage associated with some substance, I’ll listen. [Insert long-winded complaint about too many study designs and not-always-stellar science reporting.] And, if those conclusions are that alcohol has some health benefit, well, okay.
But for the sake of not triggering that clever addict inside a few million of us, it sure would be nice if there were no medical rationale[ization] for alcohol. Up to now, according to this article, research seemed to show that “moderate” drinkers were slightly healthier than heavy drinkers and also than nondrinkers. Even though every discussion of this that I saw included something like “but Dr. Iknowaboutthis said that these findings did not mean that if you don’t drink it’s a reason to start, especially for people with a problematic relationship to alcohol,” it was still perfect fodder for the addict looking for a reason why it’s a good idea to have a drink. The “not” could pretty easily — oops — get overlooked.
No more! Researchers at Boston Medical Center recrunched the numbers from 87 of the best studies on the effect of alcohol on death and found that the moderate drinkers’ better health was because they were healthier anyway: “moderate drinkers tend to be very socially advantaged.” Once the researchers controlled for socioeconomic class and separated out people who might have become nondrinkers because they had health problems (making nondrinkers as a group look less healthy), the appearance of better health for moderate drinkers went away. Evaporated. Reduced to zero. Approximately zilch. There’s nothing anybody’s addict can cling to on this one now. (The relative health of heavy drinkers in the number recrunching remained the same, at “much worse.”)
Everyone who reaches for the red wine on the logic that it is good for their health has to look just a little bit farther now. All those individual moments of one less easy excuse might just add up to something.
Have a good one.