Each week, OMRF Chief Medical Officer Dr. Judith James opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel. This week, OMRF physician-scientist Dr. Hal Scofield lends his expertise to the answer.
Despite years of hearing otherwise, I recently read that even moderate alcohol consumption has no health benefits. If a person were nevertheless to continue having a drink or two now and then, is it better to space those drinks out (i.e., one cocktail a night a few nights a week) or consolidate them (a few drinks in one night and nothing the rest of the time)? Asking for a friend, of course.
Dr. Scofield Prescribes
Research has long suggested that moderate drinking could bring health benefits, including longer lives. However, a comprehensive analysis of more than 100 such studies (involving almost 5 million people) determined that their analysis was flawed.
Scientists found that the studies failed to take into account that those who drank in moderation also had many other healthy habits and advantages. Once the researchers corrected for this error, they determined that moderate alcohol consumption offered no health advantage over not drinking at all.
These findings likely come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever had a few drinks and awakened the next morning feeling sub-optimally. And guidelines from numerous health organizations explicitly state that no one should drink alcohol for the purpose of improving their health.
The new analysis found that the risk of dying prematurely increases significantly for women when they drink 25 grams of alcohol (less than two drinks) a day, and for men when their daily alcohol consumption tops 45 grams (just over three).
As for your question, one earlier study found that those who had about one drink a day spread over four or more days a week had lower death rates than those who drank the same amount over one or two days. Consuming multiple drinks can also impact sleep and has been shown to affect cognitive processes the following day.
Alcohol carries numerous health dangers, including addiction, behavioral issues, accidents and liver damage. There’s strong evidence that three to six drinks per week increases the risk of some cancers, and surpassing six weekly drinks increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. If you drink, moderation is essential.
Canadian public health authorities recently released guidelines stating that adverse health consequences of alcohol can be avoided by consuming two or fewer drinks a week. I expect U.S. recommendations soon to follow suit.
Do you have a health query for Dr. James? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!