Alcohol is fun and rewarding for a lot of us. So perhaps it is unsurprising that so much research and media attention has been directed toward the purported benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. We tend to want to believe that our culturally engrained habits are healthy.
But bubbling under the surface has been intense debate about the true merits of moderate drinking, and that has erupted over the past few months. A massive $100-million study investigating the health effects of moderate alcohol was terminated by the NIH in June due to undue influence by the alcohol industry. And a global analysis of the health impact of alcohol use was released last month, ominously concluding that there is no safe level of alcohol. This has cast serious doubt on the popular notion that drinking moderately is good for you. Should we even be drinking alcohol at all?
I’ve avoided diving into this particular rabbit hole for a long time, because I wasn’t sure what to make of the literature, and because I wondered if my own biases might cloud my judgment. But this is too important and too timely an issue to ignore.
In this article, we will take a hard look into the relationship between alcohol and health. Why might alcohol be healthy? Why might it not be healthy? And what should we do about it? This is a bit of a longer post, but if you hang in there you’ll come away with a better understanding of the health effects of alcohol.
And if you want to learn about a potentially better way to imbibe, don’t miss the podcast at the end with Todd White, a curator of natural wines (we’ll explain what we mean by natural wines later).
But first, let’s talk about alcohol in general: what the research seems to say about it, and what it really says.