Is alcohol killing you?

The usual spiel about wine is that drunk in moderation, it’s actually good for you. What does that mean? I checked out Amitava Dasgupta’s The Science of Drinking: How Alcohol Affects Your Body and Mind. Not a sparkling read by any means, it has the virtue of a full survey of the scientific literature (a few years outdated). Listen:

Alcohol has beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. The lowest all-cause mortality occurs at an intake of one to two drinks per day. The lowest coronary heart disease mortality also occurs at an intake of one to two drinks per day. . . . Drinking more than recommended can invite problems, because the health benefits of drinking in moderation quickly disappear. Theoretically, drinking more than three drinks a day by men and more than two drinks a day by women can be considered heavy drinking. . . . The definition of moderation is not based on an average of alcohol consumption over several days but rather as the amount consumed every day.

Let me put it more simply. A standard drink of wine is a small glass. If I drink one or two glasses every day, I’ll live longer and be healthier. But exceeding two glasses flips everything arse about: I’ll die sooner and am more likely to become ill. Some averaging seems to be permissible, but abstaining Monday to Friday, and then consuming a week’s ration of 14 glasses over the weekend, repeats the bad message of earlier death, etc.

I know someone who has one glass of white wine, exactly one, no greater and no fewer, every damned day. I know people who readily have a glass or two and then stop. But I also know someone, namely me, who never gets drunk or impaired, but who regularly has three or four or even five glasses. Dasgupta’s book tells me: stop!

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