Which Study on Effects of Alcohol Consumption Should You Believe-Take Your Pick?
The short answer to the question posed in the title is attributed to Ben Franklin-“Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see” (or read).
First, recognize that research (could apply to any research) concerning the effects of alcohol on one’s well-being, could be initiated and conducted with various degrees of bias. For example, I recently noticed conflicting research data from two seemingly benign sources concerning the benefits, or lack of, in alcohol consumption. Two somewhat contradictory articles were published on August 22nd and 24th, 2018. Both studies appeared in the Health section on the Newsmax website on August 24, 2018.
The lead article on the 24th had a headline: “No Safe Level of Alcohol”, the other appeared on the 22nd: “Moderate Drinking May Protect Your Health”. With just the information implied by the titles, what take-aways should the reader be left to contemplate?
What is the consumer to believe? For years I have been writing on conflicted studies relative to the benefits of drinking wine and alcohol in general. I find the disparity in studies can have a deleterious effect on making reasoned decisions from information in such studies. If you enjoy consuming some alcoholic beverages, you are no doubt interested in the long-term effects. But, based on never-ending studies covering both sides of the issue, it is hard to have much faith in any one study or even arrive at a reasonable conclusion.
Most benefits of wine consumption are centered around cardiovascular benefits. A French scientist studied wine and grape seeds/skins for decades. He was widely published relative to the anti-oxidant benefits from wine, and grape seeds in particular. His conclusions in the 80’s was that the benefits of wine, especially grape seed extracts, were remarkable relative to heart health, vascular system, and skin elasticity, to name a few. “In 1985, Jack Masquelier was able to further explain the intense and instant positive effects that OPCs (an anti-oxidant compound in grape seeds/skin and wine) have on the human body when he discovered that OPCs neutralize free radicals, the common cause of degenerative conditions and early onset of age-associated changes in the body.”
The point being; seeds and skin of grapes have high concentrations of OPC’s and while drinking wine has some anti-oxidant values (derived primarily from resveratrol) most are found in grape skin and seeds. In fact, there are some large wine producers (Gallo being one) also producing grape seed extract for the supplement industry. Also, resveratrol is being used in some topical anti-ageing skin products.
I you do an on-line search for benefits of wine and wine by-products; the search returns are too numerous to count. Sufficed to say, people have been reporting on both benefits and harmful effects of alcohol for decades. But, can you rely on any of this research? Some is anecdotal, filled with biases and predetermined targeted findings. It is like chasing rainbows if one tries to make healthful lifestyle changes based upon cogent and trusted information. We are told to drink lots of water, but not to much; now, how is that forgetting trusted information? Alcohol consumption has been a fact of life long before Christ.
If past studies were based on science, why do their initial conclusions change so quickly? In the 1970’s a Navy doctor told me to limit coffee intake to two cups per day and preferably none. He stipulated that research showed that drinking coffee hardened arteries and was harmful to kidneys. Today there are doctors that tout the anti-oxidant values of coffee and in fact promote coffee consumption. What changed?
Stated in the one study highlighting” the ill effects of alcohol”, the author states, “The protective effect of alcohol was (is) offset by the risks,” Griswold told AFP in summarizing the results, published in medical journal The Lancet on Friday–“No Safe Level of Alcohol”. If one reads just the headlines there are some issues that come to mind; mostly about with the way the study was conducted, and facts presented. Maybe the data was poorly aggregated. Simply, how can we have confidence in using the data to determine if life-style changes are appropriate, especially if data is faulty? Maybe we just feel the conflicting information in the public domain isn’t worth much consideration.