Posted by: rmbrowning | July 7, 2010

A case for moderation – Part 1

The reason for writing this that many societies today have an incredible propensity for binge drinking, which is doing a lot of harm.  In my own country a study found that 3.9 percent of all deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption.  This is not to mention the other harms caused by alcohol consumption not mentioned in mortality statistics.

Obviously, if you gleaned anything from the title, I’m not a prohibitionist.  I’m not advocating that we should all abstain completely (although there are instances where this may be appropriate).  Nor am I advocating that non-drinkers should start.  This is more of a call to be a bit more sensible about how alcohol is consumed.  The evidence at this time suggests that those who consume alcohol in moderation live longer and have better health than heavy drinkers (and even those who abstain completely).

This better health and longevity is almost certainly due to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in Western countries.  Many studies have confirmed a link between moderate consumption and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  This may be because moderate alcohol intake has been shown to have positive effects such as increasing high-density lipoproteins (“good cholesterol” which helps prevent arterial plaques) and decreasing clotting factors like fibrinogen (which could help to prevent thrombosis).

However, more isn’t better as binge drinking seems to contribute to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.  New research has shown that the levels of a compound called acetaldehyde increase dramatically with binge drinking, which speeds up the formation of arterial plaques.  This could be why heavy drinkers have more than twice the risk of stroke than moderate consumption.  Other research has found that for women getting drunk once a month negates any benefits from moderate consumption and places them at greater risk of ischaemic heart disease.

Binge drinking is also a risk factor for several types of cancer, including: breast cancer, oral cancers, bowel cancer and liver cancer.  Having more than two standard drinks in one day will increase your risk of these cancers.  This is of course as well as behavioural consequences which have potential to ruin your life such as accidents, violence, poor social behaviour, drunkenness, unsafe/unwanted sex and listening to hip hop.

Connor, J., Broad, J., & Rehm, J., et al. (2005). The burden of death, disease, and disability due to alcohol in New Zealand. Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 118(1213).

University at Buffalo (2007, May 25). Moderate Drinking Lowers Women’s Risk Of Heart Attack. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 22, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070523153047.htm

Rodgers, H, Aitken, P.D., French, J.M., Curless, R.H., Bates, D., & James, O.F. (1993). “Alcohol and stroke. A case-control study of drinking habits past and present”  Stroke, 24,1473-1477.

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