Friday, March 9, 2012

To Drink Or Not To Drink? A Tale of Two Studies

This morning, I read about two new studies about the health effects related to alcohol consumption. In one study, women who drank more alcohol had fewer strokes. In another study, mean and women who drank more alcohol had higher rates of cancer.  That's the problem with studies that only look at only one factor of health. You get a one-sided perspective.

Did people who drank alcohol develop more cancer because they had fewer strokes, or are people who escape cancer more likely to die from a stroke? There are no easy answers to these questions and clearly these studies don't provide them.

So what's a person to do?  I follow my own basic rule in regards to drugs, food, and anything else that has known positive and negative benefits. The rule is to answer the following question: Can I get the positive benefits elsewhere? If the answer is yes, then I avoid the item to avoid the negative consequences.

As to avoiding strokes, there are many known dietary and lifestyle strategies that markedly reduce the risk of stroke. Simply put, what's good for the heart is good for the head. Avoid unhealthy fats, exercise regularly, manage stress, etc. The usual list of suspects.

So when people ask me is it healthy to drink alcohol,  knowing the cardiovascular benefits versus the cancer risks, I answer that I wouldn't recommend drinking much (more than a glass) or often (more than once in a while). While alcohol does provide some calming effects and helps manage stress, it's not on the same level as exercise or finding purposeful engagement, etc. and so even for that reason, I don't tilt the scale in favor of much consumption. 

So staying healthy may require you to say "bottom's down."

1 comment:

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