Is moderate drinking good for you? Despite what you’ve read, probably not.

"The idea that some alcohol improved some health outcomes was widely accepted for quite some time....Lately, though, scientists and researchers are beginning to doubt. So am I, for two reasons." - W.Post

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Bert Perry's picture

The author notes the very real issues with the kind of studies that it's ethical to do for this--you can't do a double blind study without violating a ton of ethics--and notes that moderate drinkers also seem to have some other habits that seem to protect them versus various maladies.  Along those lines, my decidedly non-scientific observation is that if you take a look at pictures of wine tastings, most of the people are far healthier than the congregants at the churches I've attended--far less weight on them for starters, far more evidence of routine exercise.  One starting hypothesis is that the average "wine snob" takes the same habits he has for drinking wine--smell, sip, enjoy--to his food, whereas too many of us (myself sometimes included) more or less inhale our food as if it were a biological "fix-a-flat.".

Two other things come to mind here.  First, the article ends by noting that "it's not that good, probably not that bad either", which means that moderate drinking is far less lethal than, say, the standard American diet and lack of exercise, and is similar in impact to a lot of things we accept like the risks of driving and eating red meat and cured meats. The second thing I noticed is that the drinking level for a 38% increased risk of stroke was 20 drinks per week, which is only "moderate" if we assume the drinker has a very even pattern of drinking--if it's at all uneven, the drinker will have four or more drinks in a sitting at least a time or two per week, and they'd therefore most likely be at least on the border of problem drinking.

(plus, writing as the son of a dietician who learned a touch from her, that's 2-3000 calories, or about the first 15-25% of a person's dietary needs.....given that it's mostly calories without protein and such, that's a bad idea whether it's wine, whiskey, or Mountain Dew)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

The second thing I noticed is that the drinking level for a 38% increased risk of stroke was 20 drinks per week, which is only "moderate" if we assume the drinker has a very even pattern of drinking--if it's at all uneven, the drinker will have four or more drinks in a sitting at least a time or two per week, and they'd therefore most likely be at least on the border of problem drinking.

I think my first response to the author would be something like: "You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means."

Without commenting on the value of the study, or whether moderate drinking is a good thing or not, I also noticed that number in the article.  It's clear that if the author agrees that the 20 drinks per week in the study was "moderate" alcohol consumption, she has a much different view of the word than I do.  Obviously, that word is one that can be abused into meaning a whole lot of different things depending on who is using it.

20 a week is 3 times a day (I guess breakfast can be left out one day a week!).  To my mind, at least, that's a pretty high level of alcohol consumption.  I realize I'm not the standard, even for believers, but moderation brings to my mind people having a glass of wine with their dinner, or those really old people I read about who drink a single shot of whiskey every night by habit or like a dose of medicine.  Maybe 20 a week seems "moderate" to someone who abuses alcohol, but it certainly does not to me.

Dave Barnhart

dgszweda's picture

Moderate is officially defined as 196 grams of alcohol or less in a week.  That is defined as less than (2) 12oz of beer a day.  That is the upper borderline of moderation.  Most people would classify as moderate to be more like 1 or less beer a day on average.  For women, moderation is defined as less than 83 grams of alcohol or less a week, so less than (1) 12oz of beer a day.

In my personal professional life, I am finding that alcohol in general is not as common.  I used to be the only one not drinking at professional events about 15-20 years ago.  Today, I am more in a group of 25%-33% of the participants who are not drinking.

Bert Perry's picture

You might get occasional people who drink at lunch and supper, a glass of wine or two, and I'd guess those are not the key people likely to get a stroke.  To draw a picture, when the doctor visits Billy Bones in Treasure Island, he warns him that more rum will cause him to have a stroke. (spoiler; he does just that)  So it really is a key question of whether the people in that study with ~20 drinks/week are actually spreading their drinking out and keeping their BAC below 0.1%, or whether they're routinely getting too drunk to drive or "binge drinking".

I believe that the CDC and other authorities have been using this definition--four or more drinks in a sitting, more or less hitting > 0.08-0.1% BAC--as the definition of excessive or "binge" drinking for about three decades.  It is somewhat irritating that so many studies decide to use a different definition.  Part of the issue is the limitations of self-reporting, but that noted, every time I go to the doctor, I get a health survey that asks me how often I have more than four drinks in a sitting.  It's not like it's impossible to separate these things out.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Earlier in the article she defines moderate as around 2 drinks a day. Later she references the larger number, apparently from the Chinese study, but the wording is a bit unclear. Does she mean to re-define moderate? I don't think so. 

Her logic stumbles a bit there, needs clarification 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Craig Toliver's picture

For me moderate is:

  • One glass of red wine with pasta
  • Half a beer twice a week (split a 12 oz w my wife)
WallyMorris's picture

1. The fact that some of those who oppose consuming modern alcoholic beverages are also overweight is irrelevant to whether consuming modern alcoholic beverages violates Biblical principles or violates good health practice. The issue relates more to consistency of argument/position that to validity of argument/position.

2. One factor (of many) to consider is not how close can I get to sin without sinning but rather what practices can I use in my life to avoid sinning and to help my children/grandchildren (and others) avoid sinning. An individual person may very easily consume modern alcoholic beverages without ever becoming drunk (with perhaps some minor health benefits) but will his example motivate his children/grandchildren to consume modern alcoholic beverages but unfortunately discover they do not have the same self-control or caution?

3. I am saddened to see a large number of Christians almost brag about drinking wine and beer. Seems strange, to say the least.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Bert Perry's picture

Wally, take a look in Scripture for places where gluttony and drunkenness are described in the same place.  You see it in the Torah with the rebellious son, you see it in Proverbs 23 and elsewhere in Proverbs, you see it where Jesus said "the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you call him a glutton and a drunkard".  So just as the column here describes the suspicion that moderate drinkers have other habits that lend themselves to health, so does Scripture.  

Regarding being sad about Christians "bragging" about drinking, it's really not as much "bragging" in most cases as it is simply rejoicing that God's Word describes wine as a wonderful gift that we can, if we choose, enjoy.  And that brings me to your second point of "how do we work around those who may lack self-control"--well, the same way that we would, again, work with those whose bellies tell us that they've got a problem with gluttony.  

After all, one does not develop self-control by methodically avoiding any situation where one would have to use it--one may as well argue that I'd get to that 300lb squat by sitting in my recliner and avoiding exercise by which I might get hurt.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

ah... Bert??? 

Gluttony and drpunkenness

you ok???

So I couldn't resist that one.

As for studying the terms, a better study is to look for the term gluttony or glutton without connection to drinking. As far as I can tell there are only two.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Lane's picture

In MHO No one drinks alcohol that doesn't like the buzz they get, and you never grave it until  you taste it. Some people lose control while drinking and are responsible for DUIs that result in injuries and death, spouse abuse, child abuse, and financial ruin. You can't compare someone who is big around the waist because they eat to much, or don't exercise to stay slim, to the problem alcohol cause our society.

Bert Perry's picture

Lane wrote:

In MHO No one drinks alcohol that doesn't like the buzz they get, and you never grave it until  you taste it. Some people lose control while drinking and are responsible for DUIs that result in injuries and death, spouse abuse, child abuse, and financial ruin. You can't compare someone who is big around the waist because they eat to much, or don't exercise to stay slim, to the problem alcohol cause our society.

I've been enjoying a bit of wine and beer for over three decades and have never been buzzed, let alone drunk.  Ever.  The large majority of drinkers moreover never develop problems with alcohol because, like people who handle food well, they drink in moderation.

Really, if your view were true, Scripture would reflect it instead of speaking of wine as a blessing, and Christ would not have kept the party going at Cana.  Even if one accepts "two wines" theory, one ought to concede that most people would see His creation as ordinary, alcoholic wine, since that's the Greek word used for what Jesus made.  Is God the Author of confusion?  I think not.

Regarding the applicability of passages on gluttony to drunkenness, the reality is that drunkenness is simply gluttony for beer, wine, and the like, no?  So if we see that we have moderate drinkers showing all kinds of better health than our own, maybe we ought to learn from them.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Lane's picture

Well I've met moderate drinker of all waist size but never one who would say that wine did not gladden his heart or in our day give him a buzz.

My view on Jesus turning water to wine is, he did so for a drink that was for all to partake of, adults and children, what strength it was, we can guess and have opinions. 

And the scriptures teaches us not to be stumbling blocks to others because of wine and beer 

I agree God is not the author of confusion, but we do become confused at times, I've been confused and looked to God's word for clarification with the help of the holy spirit.

When comparing a person who has extra inches around the waist to a glutton, confused me. I think a glutton is much more than extra inches around the waist. How many extra inches to qualify as a glutton. What about women after having a baby, not all can get back slim and trim, people who become inactive because of pain or old age are they gluttons. I know gluttons who are slim and trim.

I believe you can be a moderate drinker and be healthy, but in the present culture, we are better to never taste alcohol additive drink, We can refresh our body with so many healthy drinks God has provided. If you don't want a buzz might as well drink cheaper and taste better grape juice on ice. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Lane, in the context in which it's used, it's a good thing to have a gladdened heart.  So what if people in your experience have a gladdened heart from drinking wine?  We may as well declare that the celebrants at the wedding at Cana were in sin for their rejoicing in a wedding, or that when we arrive at the wedding supper of the Lamb, we ought to look as if we were weaned on a pickle.  That's simply not how Scripture describes it.

Regarding gluttony and obesity, gluttony is eating too much.  Obesity is more calories in than calories out.  So excess fat does indicate gluttony whether we like it or not.  Inasmuch as wine tastings feature people with much less excess weight than we'd see at a typical church potluck, again, those at the church potluck have something to learn from the wine tasting crowd.  Start with "smell and taste your food before you swallow it" and "cost is not the only metric of significance in food."  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.