Holiday Drinking Beneficial In Moderation Of Course

A_glass_of_red_wineOver 16 years ago, the American Council published a monograph on the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on health (up to two drinks per day for men, and one for women). In that paper we noted that such consumption could benefit both adult men and women with respect to cardiovascular health. Since then, there has been additional research that bolsters our confidence in that earlier conclusion. This research has been summarized succinctly by Dr. Aaron E. Carroll from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

Beginning in 1990, epidemiological research on men studied since the late 1950s found a reduction in the rates of death from coronary heart disease, as well as from all causes in men who consumed one to two drinks per day. In 2004, both men and women were were followed, and there were similar benefits for those who consumed about one drink per day. It's true, as Dr. Carroll points out, that the benefits seen accrue to decreased risks with respect to cardiovascular disease. But not with respect to cancer of various types.

A large review last year found some links between alcohol consumption and breast cancer (a small increase); and a link between colorectal cancer and heavy (but not light or moderate) drinking in other studies. Thus far, there has been no relationship flound between alcohol consumption and bladder or ovarian cancer.

Further, Dr. Carrol states, a British study found better cognitive function in a group of about 6,000 people in those who consumed alcohol at least once per week. Of course, these were all descriptive studies, that can demonstrate links, but not causation. But there has been a randomized study of people with Type 2 diabetes that indicated that when they drank about a cup of wine with dinner for two years, they had lower risks of heart disease and stroke than participants who drank the same amount of water.

So the take-home message about moderate alcohol consumption and health is still that there can be important benefits, but there are some less robust risks. And of course, people with some health issues should be sure to check with their physician or other health care provider before indulging.

It may be a relief, at this time of year, to know that holiday drinks may help health rather than hurt but always in moderation, of course!