Recently, an examination of a rather large data set of studies (we’re talking nearly 200 countries, and over 690 pieces of work involving millions of people) was published in Lancet, and most of my alcohol-loving friends just about lost their sh*t.
The reason for the theoretical emergency bowel-vacating stemmed from media coverage of one of the Lancet study’s late conclusions, and the one harpooned by the media and shared pretty much everywhere (emphasis mine):
“Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for disease burden worldwide, accounting for nearly 10% of global deaths among populations aged 15–49 years, and poses dire ramifications for future population health in the absence of policy action today. The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to show how much alcohol use contributes to global death and disability. Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”
That pithy little emphasized sentence above is the scientific equivalent of constructing a late-game, come-from-behind, potentially-game-winning NFL drive that started on your team’s own ten-yard line, culminating in a 3rd-and-long breakout run during which your guys fumble the f*cking ball at the goal-line and emerge with a heartbreaking loss. This is because there is a wealth of health-related insight that could come out of the Lancet study, and they chose to focus on the one aspect that the data don’t actually support directly; that conclusion is controversial at best, and is only loosely inferred from the analysis, based on the facts and results cited in the very study itself.
Bear in mind that alcohol constitutes an inordinate amount of the professional and leisure portions of my existence on this planet, which is why instead of trying to make that case myself in my own (not-so-)potentially biased way, I’ll instead refer you to Vox, who have already (splendidly) done that for me…
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Another quick-hit this week to let you know that I was recently a guest on MyFitnessRx.net‘s Running episode, talking about some recent fun/interesting health-related facts/studies pertaining to our favorite adult libation.
You can check out the specific segment in the embed below. Here’s how you can check out the My Fitness Rx show on a regular basis:
Wine Facts, Running – e9
Last week, MyFitnessRx.net aired a segment featuring yours truly, waxing all dime-store-philosophical like about the healthy heart benefits of red wine consumption (in moderation, you lushes!). Green screens and open bottles of wine FTW!
My brief segment with show host Tanya Stroh is below; you can check out the full episode as well. If you find yourself among the healthily-inclined, here are some details on how you can binge on past and future episodes of the show:
Red Wine, A Healthy Heart
Recently, a 1WD reader wrote in to ask me what I thought about the recent spate of news indicating that alcohol is bad for your health. Here’s his initial correspondence, which he gave me permission to share with you all:
I was reading a few articles in Decanter for class when I came across one (admittedly attention-grabbing) article. The UK’s equivalent of the Surgeon General has apparently decided there’s “no safe level of drinking”. She has also cut the guideline maximum for men weekly to 14 units (a unit is approximately 2.5 US fluid ounces of 13% abv wine). Here is the article: http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/uk-alcohol-guidelines-no-safe-drinking-level-as-daily-limit-cut-287142/.
To put it mildly, I think this is complete and utter bullshit. It’s not that I think moderate alcohol consumption is bad–far from it. Indeed, I think there are people who should try to avoid alcohol completely, including those who have no control over their own drinking whatsoever. However, from what I’ve read over the years, there is a “J-shaped curve” associated with various diseases (particularly coronary-related) and alcohol consumption. A quick internet search led me to this for cardiovascular health: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/562474_2, and WineAnorak had this for other benefits: http://www.wineanorak.com/healother.htm.
While there are health risks associated with alcohol use, as well, including oesophageal cancers, there are health risks associated with nearly everything. Taking a stroll after work is healthy, for example, but there’s a risk I could get hit by a car, or get hypothermia or heat stroke (depending on the weather), or bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus. Even hiding at home trying to avoid all risks of mortality doesn’t rule out dying of various things, such as unexpected meteor impact, heart attack from a combination of lack of exercise and stress from perceived impending doom, or starvation since I’d run out of groceries eventually if I refuse to leave the house. Paranoia to that extent is almost reason to cause someone to drink.
Sorry about that rant. I read that article and it riled me up; I felt it would be something I’d love to hear your opinion and commentary on, as well.
In a follow-up correspondence, he had this to add about the subject:
I read another two studies about raised breast cancer risks from light-to-moderate alcohol usage as compared to abstinence this last week. One was a study of about 48000 people from the 1980s to 2010. The other was a meta-study. Both found an approximately 10% risk of breast cancer in abstainers, and an approximately 12.5% risk in light-to-moderate drinkers. I didn’t see anything about mortality, metastasizing, or recurrence. It didn’t seem that other risk factors besides smoking were necessarily controlled for. I’ll have to use some Google-fu to find them again, but though neither was precisely friendly towards alcohol, what I understood from their conclusions was essentially, “There’s a slightly elevated risk of breast cancer from drinking alcohol. It’s not much to worry about, but if you are paranoid, you can stop drinking.”
Now, bearing in mind that, to the best of my knowledge, neither he nor I are medical professionals, here’s my take on all of this…
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