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Benefits or Not of Moderate Drinking

Posted 4/6/2016

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  You likely are aware of the continuing controversy/discussion about the possible health risks and benefits of moderate drinking. Moderate is defined as one or two drinks per day and definitely excludes binge drinking. In addition to the larger conversation about health in general, there have been studies that specifically examined the risks around breast cancer.

  For breast cancer, the evidence seems pretty solid that even moderate drinking can increase the risk of developing the disease in the first place and, possibly, of recurrence. This is related to alcohol's calories and the complicated ways that our bodies process and absorb it and the relationship to estrogen. Far beyond my pay grade to really understand it. This has needed to be weighed against the existing evidence that has suggested a benefit for cardiac health and the less definable life style and QOL impact.

  In the interest of honesty, I will say here that I almost always have a glass of wine or a cocktail at night. I have thought long and hard about this and believe that, if the cancer recurs, I will not hold myself responsible because of the wine. That is a key concept.

  And here is a discouraging report from Reuters about a new study that suggests that all the previous work around the possible health benefits may be shaky. And that shakiness may be due to non-drinkers having been advised not to drink for other health reasons, so, presumably, there were in poorer health at the onset. Hard to tease this one out.

  Here is the start of the report and a link to read more:

Can a Drink a Day Keep the Doctor Away?
By Lisa Rapaport 

(Reuters Health) - Lots of people think a glass of wine or beer at dinner can help them have a longer and healthier life.
But a new study suggests that much of the evidence in favor of moderate drinking may be shaky at best.
Scientists took a closer look at findings from 87 previously published studies on drinking and death from all causes and found all but 13 of these experiments had a critical flaw.
Most of the studies compared moderate drinkers - people who had one or two drinks a day - with current abstainers. The problem is the studies didn't account for medical reasons that may have driven abstainers to avoid alcohol, potentially exaggerating the health benefits seen with moderate drinking.
After taking this abstainer bias into account, "our study found no net benefits overall," said lead study author Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria's Center for Addictions Research in British Columbia, Canada.
"People should not drink for health - health benefits can be obtained in many ways and drinking in any pattern is not a reliable means to this end," Stockwell added by email. "Most of us enjoy alcohol, and drinking lightly and occasionally presents the least risk."
Thirteen studies did account for abstainer bias, and none of them found health benefits associated with moderate drinking, Stockwell and colleagues report in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Read more:


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