So What Does it Mean that Studies Reveal that Moderate Drinkers Are Healthier than Teetotalers ?

by Symptom Advice on December 5, 2011

November 28, 2011  |         LIKE THIS ARTICLE ? Join our mailing list: Sign up to stay up to date on the latest Personal Health headlines via email.        

We know too much drinking can be hazardous to our health. but new research suggests that drinking too little might be hazardous, too.

I don’t want to go to rehab, but a raft of recent studies show that moderate alcohol consumption lowers our risks for many dire conditions including heart disease, stroke, gallstones, diabetes and dementia. some studies even suggest that the answer to pesky menopause symptoms comes in six-packs and goes great with pretzels.

The keyword here is "moderate." some studies define this as one drink per week; others as up to four drinks per day. this haziness notwithstanding, these studies show that heavy drinkers are far more likely than moderate drinkers to die from certain diseases.

But so are people who don’t drink at all.

It’s a bell curve. but while one half of the bell is well, duh, the other half — the half involving abstinence — is pretty shocking. In study after study, abstainers get sick and die sooner and in larger numbers than moderate drinkers.

In these studies, "you get this protective effect no matter what you drink: wine, beer or liquor," says nutrition therapist Karen Scheuner.

Absinthe, beaujolais, King Cobra: It’s all good — or good for you.

"the benefits don’t increase with amount," Scheuner says, "and they disappear altogether if you consume four or more drinks per day."

A study published this summer found that women who consume one drink daily and men who consume two drinks daily are 23 percent less likely than nondrinkers to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Heavy drinkers, defined here as consumers of at least three to five drinks daily, face higher Alzheimer’s risks than both moderate drinkers and abstainers. (Well, duh.)

And a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that, compared to abstinence, drinking one to three alcoholic beverages daily is associated with a 33 to 56 percent lower incidence of diabetes — and imbibing over three drinks daily is associated with a 43 percent higher incidence of diabetes. (Duh again.)

A study presented two months ago at the European Respiratory Society Annual Congress found that both abstainers and heavy drinkers are nearly one and a half times as likely to develop asthma as are moderate drinkers, defined here as consumers of one to six alcoholic beverages per week. Abstainers face the highest asthma risk of all, topping even that of heavy drinkers.

A 2007 study found that drinking at least one alcoholic beverage daily is associated with a 30-percent lower risk than abstinence of developing one type of kidney cancer. but its authors warn that alcohol consumption — light, heavy and moderate — is linked with increased rates of breast cancer, liver cancer, oral cancer, esophageal cancer and other cancers. I don’t like those odds.

A study published in the new England Journal of Medicine that tracked over 22,000 men for more than 12 years found that those who regularly consumed as little as one drink a week had a lower stroke risk than did abstainers. a study published in the Journal of Urology that tracked over 120,000 men found that those who regularly consumed at least 1.3 ounces of alcohol daily — about half as much as is found in your average Manhattan — had a 35-percent lower risk than abstainers did of developing prostatic hyperplasia, whose symptoms include incontinence and a wide array of other urinary woes.

Other recent studies found moderate drinkers facing significantly less risk than abstainers for macular degeneration, arthritis, osteoporosis — and even death itself.

A 2010 study found that abstainers’ all-cause mortality rate is twice as high as that of moderate drinkers. Examining death rates among middle-aged people, this study also found a 70 percent higher mortality rate for heavy drinkers than for moderate drinkers. so does abstaining mean you’ll die that much sooner than both your social-drinker, daiquiri-a-day ex and alcoholic Uncle Joe, who blacks out in alleyways?

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