How much should I drink? Why no single study will ever answer that question

Those of us who wish to unwind by having fun with just a few drinks with mates can typically take consolation in headlines like these: Researchers discover a glass of wine a day is sweet on your well being, Alcohol helps you reside longer and New examine suggests consuming can cut back your threat of illness.

Last week introduced an reverse – and usually much less enthusiastically obtained – proclamation: Study finds no quantity of alcohol is secure.

How much is too much? There’s no simple answer.

How a lot is an excessive amount of? There’s no easy reply.

Confused? Be reassured that greater powers than you wrestle with what to make of this too. Case in level: nationwide consuming tips differ wildly from nation to nation. The not too long ago revised Australian tips suggest not more than 10 commonplace drinks every week. For males in Spain, it’s nearly triple that, whereas the Netherlands recommends whole abstinence. Add to this that some nations, such because the United States, suggest a lot decrease limits for ladies than for males; others, together with Australia, make no distinction.

So which message do you have to heed, and which do you have to ignore? Well … it will depend on a big host of things – some you possibly can’t do something about (age, intercourse, genetics, current illness), others which can be mutable (whether or not you lead an in any other case wholesome life-style), plus a complete lot of remaining unknowns. No single examine is ready to seize your complete story. Here’s some meals (or drink) for thought:

First off, the reply to this query hinges quite a bit on what illness you care most about avoiding. When it involves many cancers, the proof is fairly clear that any quantity of alcohol will increase your threat. That’s as a result of one of many byproducts your physique makes when processing alcohol – acetaldehyde – is carcinogenic.

On the opposite hand, some analysis finds protecting results of a bit of consuming for sure sorts of heart problems, in addition to dementia, kind 2 diabetes and melancholy. Although, even right here, it’s nonetheless unclear whether or not alcohol is definitely the factor inflicting the well being advantages. The massive drawback is that, in contrast with teetotallers, reasonable drinkers are usually excessive on different components related to good well being, resembling exercising extra and having higher entry to healthcare. And these components are pretty troublesome for research to totally account for.


Also, your sample of consuming makes a distinction. Most research merely give attention to how a lot an individual drinks in, say, the area of every week. But we’re beginning to discover that alcohol’s influence could be simply as a lot about the way you unfold that consuming out over the week.

Having a glass of wine each evening with dinner goes to have very totally different results to downing seven photographs on a Saturday evening (and never solely due to the kind of beverage – nowadays we expect it’s the ethanol itself moderately than the polyphenols in crimson wine which may clarify any potential advantages).

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