More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Study Aims to Sort Out Alcohol Usage
July 26, 2004
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Alcohol is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the medical world: Drinking too much causes serious problems, while drinking a little may help many people's health.

How many drinks provide just the benefits and not the harm? It depends on whether a person is most at risk of heart disease, diabetes or breast cancer. But there is one bottom line: Five or six drinks only on Saturday night will provide no benefits, while a drink or two a night might.

So concludes an exhaustive new analysis by the National Institutes of Health that sorts out a plethora of sometimes conflicting research on alcohol's effects.

The review was prompted by cardiologists' complaints that patients suddenly were asking if they should start imbibing, and how much. Other research is overturning the dogma that people at risk of diabetes should abstain; still more links even light drinking to breast cancer.

Adding confusion, people are vulnerable to more than one disease as they age. A 50-year-old woman with breast cancer in the family might get very different advice on alcohol than one who's pre-diabetic with high cholesterol.

Hence NIH's review.

"We are not encouraging anybody to start drinking,'' stresses Lorraine Gunzerath of the NIH's National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol, who led the analysis published last month in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

After all, alcoholism remains a major health problem, and people with liver disease may not tolerate even moderate drinking.

Instead, the report, aimed at people who already drink some, concludes that to get alcohol's potential health benefits, how much those people can consume must be customized by their age, gender and overall medical history.

For many of these diseases, "If you do drink moderately now, fear... is not a reason to stop,'' explains Gunzerath. "Some people have said, `Should I stop now because there's diabetes in my family?' Well, if you're a moderate drinker, there's some protection.''

As population-wide advice, consuming two drinks a day for men and one a day for women is linked to lower mortality and unlikely to harm, the review found. Men shouldn't exceed four drinks on any day, and women three - bingeing is simply bad.

But NIH's disease-by-disease findings provide better details:

o Studies consistently show that in people 40 or older, consuming one to four drinks daily significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, the nation's leading killer. In contrast, five or more drinks daily markedly increases heart risk.

However, frequency seems key. Consuming smaller amounts several times a week - one or two daily or every other day - is most heart-protective. It apparently takes low, regular alcohol exposure to help raise levels of the body's so-called good cholesterol, the HDL type, and to thin blood.

o The alcohol-breast cancer link remains controversial. Some studies suggest a small increase in risk, that roughly 9 in 100 nondrinkers may get breast cancer by age 80 compared with 10 in 100 women who consume two drinks a day. Per person, that's a tiny risk.

But women whose mothers or sisters had breast cancer, or those taking post-menopausal estrogen replacement, are at greater risk from alcohol. Those women, Gunzerath says, must weigh the fear of breast cancer against their risk of heart disease in deciding whether to avoid alcohol.

o One to two drinks a day several days per week seems to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, a disease rising at epidemic proportions.

Low levels of alcohol apparently help the body use insulin to process blood sugar better. The benefit was seen among the overweight and those with "metabolic syndrome,'' a cluster of pre-diabetic weight-related symptoms that include high blood pressure and poor cholesterol.

o There's no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, but what about while breast-feeding? Nursing mothers who want an occasional drink should consume it several hours before the next feeding, enough time to metabolize the alcohol so little reaches the infant. And contrary to folklore, alcohol does not aid lactation but temporarily decreases milk production.

How much is a drink a day? Five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. To help people add that up, consumer groups are pushing for alcohol containers to list serving sizes and the moderate-drinking advice; the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau hasn't yet responded.

Similar threads A new study on anxiety in JAMA Psychiatry shows a mindfulness program works as well as the popular anti-anxiety medication Lexapro. Anxiety symptoms like restlessness, feelings of worry and dread, and sleep problems, can interfere with daily life, relationships and career goals. Many people get relief using psychiatric medications, but finding the treatment that works best is an individual...
NIH study of tea drinkers in the UK suggests health benefits for black tea Maki Inoue-Choi, Ph.D., National Institutes of Health (NIH) August 29, 2022 A prospective study of half a million tea drinkers in the United Kingdom has shown that higher tea intake was associated with a modestly lowered risk of death. The study, led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is a large and comprehensive analysis of the potential mortality benefits of...
104 October 4, 2022 "Expectant mothers taking many common antidepressants need no longer worry the medication may harm their child’s future behavioral or cognitive neurodevelopment, according to a new study of over 145,000 women and their children across the United States followed for up to 14 years."
Antidepressant drugs do work, review on almost 120,000 patients concludes CBC Health News February 22, 2018 Effectiveness of 21 drugs varies widely, but all were more effective than placebo A vast research study that sought to settle a long-standing debate about whether anti-depressant drugs really work has found they are indeed effective in relieving acute depression in adults. The international study a meta-analysis pooling results of 522 trials covering 21 commonly-used...
Peanut allergy treatment succeeds in study Los Angeles Times February 20, 2018 Some people have life-threatening reactions if exposed to peanuts. (Patrick Sison / Associated Press) The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A California company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut flour helped children build tolerance to the nuts in a major study. Millions of children have peanut allergies, and some have...