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One Little Drink Can’t Hurt You, Right?

If you looked very carefully at the research on alcohol that has been emerging in the last decade, you might never drink again. There are fewer and fewer studies that support the common idea, admittedly offered up in some previous scientific studies, that light drinking, such as a single glass of wine a day, has benefits. In fact, the evidence is headed the other way, that drinking has more health risks than benefits.

The latest coffin nail comes from the journal Stroke, which published a massive study on Sept. 24 that says light drinking appears to offer no benefit for prevention of stroke, and it definitely increases the chance of stroke the more you drink (moderate to heavy drinking).

The authors acknowledged that some other studies have shown a slight benefit for light drinking but offered explanations for why those studies may be flawed and went on to say that heavy drinking is definitely a health hazard, especially for stroke, and that all previous studies have confirmed that. Previous studies of light drinkers may not have accounted for the fact that people who don’t drink much tend to have good habits — they don’t smoke, exercise frequently and eat a healthy diet.

The study was extensive and had a long reach. It looked at a population of more than 12,000 people aged 45–64 and followed them for a median 22 years. Fully a third of participants did not drink at all, and 39% drank less than four drinks a week. About a fourth of participants consumed up to 17 drinks a week, and about 5% drank more than that.

Meanwhile, the American Heart Association is clear on the subject: It does not recommend drinking alcoholic beverages to reduce heart disease.

Another large study published in The Lancet on Sept. 17 concluded there is no overall health benefit from consuming alcohol, and it increases the risk for some cancers by 51%.

Here’s a prediction. When we get a surgeon general with some guts, she just might come out with a 1960s-ish tobacco-like statement that drinking doesn’t help your health in any way.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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