Is alcohol a benefit to health?

Moderate alcohol intake is often claimed to be beneficial to health, particularly for the prevention of heart disease, but this is mostly wishful thinking. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report notes that although moderate intake of alcohol (among adults) is associated with positive health outcomes, many of these studies have serious problems. According to the 2020 DGAC, although it is possible that alcohol consumption at low levels may have some benefits, the bias in observational studies means that
associations with better health among low average drinkers compared with never drinkers may be a statistical artifact. The 2020 DGAC does not recommend that anyone begin drinking alcohol or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of violence, drowning, injuries from falls, motor vehicle crashes, and breast and at least six other types of cancer.

The 2015 DGAC report points out that there are many circumstances in which people should not drink alcohol:
• Individuals who cannot restrict their drinking to moderate levels
• Anyone younger than the legal drinking age
• Women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant
• Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can
interact with alcohol
• Individuals with certain specific medical conditions (e.g., liver disease, high
triglycerides, pancreatitis)
• Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other
activities that require attention, skill, or coordination or in situations where
impaired judgment could cause injury or death (e.g., swimming)

Approximately 60% of U.S. individuals report alcoholic beverage consumption in the past month, and of those, approximately 40% binge drink—consuming 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women during a drinking occasion—often multiple times per month. The lost productivity, medically-related costs, and costs to the legal and criminal justice systems from excessive alcohol consumption add up to $224 billion annually in the United States.

The 2020 DGAC cited new scientific evidence about the harms of alcohol and strengthened previous recommendations to limit consumption of alcohol. The new recommendation for those who drink, is to limit consumption to just one drink a day for both men and women. In addition to the health risks of consuming alcohol, the 2020 DGAC considers alcohol to be an important risk factor for, or contributor to, a variety of social and mental health problems, including depression, child abuse and neglect, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, motor vehicle crashes, domestic violence, sexual assault, vandalism and other property crimes, and nuisance violations.

This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.