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Drinking Alcohol May Extend Your Life 548

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the chug-chug-chug dept.
Adolytsi writes "MSNBC has an interesting article on an Italian study on alcoholism. While the obvious notion of overconsumption of alcohol being detrimental to one's health is supported, apparently drinking it in moderation can actually extend your lifespan. A study on over 1 million drinkers and 94,000 deaths yielded the results: "According to the data, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol — up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women — reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent, the team reports in the Archives of Internal Medicine. However, "things radically change" when consumption goes beyond these levels, study leader Dr. Augusto Di Castelnuovo, from Catholic University of Campobasso, said in a statement. Men who have more than four drinks per day and women who have more than two drinks per day not only lose the protection that alcohol affords, but they increase their risk of death, the data indicates.""
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Drinking Alcohol May Extend Your Life

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  • Define "drink" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neimon (713907)
    Four tumblers of middle-quality scotch?
    • by farlcow (671869) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:24PM (#17317752)
      1 pan-galactic gargle blaster
    • Re:Define "drink" (Score:5, Informative)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:38PM (#17317998)

      They defined a drink as 10 grams of ethanol, which would make the appropriate amount for americans something like 1 tumbler of scotch, I believe (assuming 120 proof). If someone cares to do a more scientific conversion, rather than the half-assed one I just put together, we're looking for what content of scotch contains 30 grams of ethanol.

      • Re:Define "drink" (Score:5, Informative)

        by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:12PM (#17318560)
        I didn't see them mention the amount of ethanol per drink in the article, but 10g does match the Italian definition of a standard drink [wikipedia.org], which is also about the amount in a 1-oz shot of 80-proof liquor. Most people in the USA, however, probably think of a single drink as more like the US standard, which is 14g. This corresponds to a 12-oz non-light beer or 5 oz of most wines. So Americans should probably interpret the limit as *3* drinks per day for men.
        • Re:Define "drink" (Score:5, Informative)

          by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:19PM (#17318688)

          So Americans should probably interpret the limit as *3* drinks per day for men.

          Actually, from the somewhat better article on this study that I read, they found a difference between European and American drinking that placed 3, 10g drinks as the high end cutoff for Americans and 6 as the cutoff for Europeans. They theorized this was due to the differences in the way Americans and Europeans drink, specifically if you were drinking small amounts with meals all day, or drinking all of it at once without food.

          So you should probably change that to "2" drinks per day, for men, unless you're drinking them more dispersed over the course of the day and with food.

        • by Hucko (998827) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @07:16PM (#17320036)
          Damn! For Aussies, this means we can only have a sip!
      • Re:Define "drink" (Score:5, Informative)

        by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:36PM (#17318972)
        If someone cares to do a more scientific conversion, rather than the half-assed one I just put together, we're looking for what content of scotch contains 30 grams of ethanol.
        Ok.

        A standard "drink", as defined in the US, is 0.6 oz of ethenol [wikipedia.org]. We will assume 43% alcohol by volume (the content of my favorite Scotch, Glenmorangie 18 year).

        At 43% ABV, a "standard drink" of Glenmorangie would be 0.6/0.43 = 1.40 oz, or slightly less than a shot (1.5 oz). 0.6 oz of ethanol weighs about 14g, assuming a specific gravity of 0.789 for ethanol [wikipedia.org]. Calculations below:

        (0.6 oz) * (29.57 ml/oz) * (0.789 g/cm^3) * (1 ml/cm^3) = 14.0 grams

        So with a drink allowance of 4 drinks at 10g of ethanol each would allow you to have *almost* three Scotches, by American drink size standards. In the UK, where a standard drink is only 10 ml of ethanol, you could have five drinks. Whether this amount is more or less than what you actually pour for yourself is left as an exercise for the reader.
  • by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:13PM (#17317528)
    FTA: However, "things radically change" when consumption goes beyond these levels

    For starters, you wake up in bed with a stranger not knowing how either got there...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:39PM (#17318020)
      Once lived in a dorm that was co-ed by door, and was awakened one night by a drunken female staggering in my door and flopping down next to me in bed...She'd gotten off on the wrong floor from the elevator, and had mistaken my room for her room. I don't know who the hell she thought I was...Anyway...Being a chivalrous geek, I just rolled over and went back to sleep...I assumed that she would understand the nature of her mistake upon awakening, and maybe, I don't know, invite me to breakfast or something.

      Three hours later I was standing in the hall with no shirt, after being thrown out of my own room by a still-drunk girl who was convinced that I'd sneaked into her room in the night! One of my floormates called campus security (probably for their own amusement), and the whole thing ended up being written up (in garbled form) as a security report in the campus paper.

      Not only did I not get breakfast, poor girl was so humiliated by the whole incident that she avoided me until I transferred 18 months later.

      I think the moral is either: Don't drink the punch, or Let sleeping geeks lie.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You should have brought *her* breakfast.

        And, likely, a bucket.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jehosephat2k (562701)
        I think the moral is either: Don't drink the punch, or Let sleeping geeks lie.

        Or lock your door.
    • This old chestnut keeps raising its head: Look at the Italians/Greeks/whatever. They have long lives. It must be the alcohol.... or maybe it's the olive oil... or fresh tomatos.... or yogurt...

      Truth is that people's lives are a combination of so many factors that singling out one factor is pretty pointless.

  • Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kelz (611260) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:13PM (#17317530)
    I still find it interesting that at 18 you're allowed join the military and die but you're not allowed to drink alcohol.
    • by Sciros (986030) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:17PM (#17317606) Journal
      The military should have its soldiers drink 2-4 drinks per day. Casualties will drop by 18% and morale will rise.
    • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Interesting)

      by faloi (738831) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:17PM (#17317610)
      I still find it interesting that at 18 you're allowed join the military and die but you're not allowed to drink alcohol.

      To be fair, though, bars around military bases tended to not pay a lot of attention to specific details like age when shown a military ID (at least back when I was in). That doesn't make it any more legal, but at least we could still show up to morning PT drunk. Believe it or not, it's an even worse idea than it sounds.
    • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

      by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:21PM (#17317690)
      I still find it interesting that at 18 you're allowed join the military and die but you're not allowed to drink alcohol. ... in the United States of America

      Anyways, the problem with the age limit on alcohol consumption is that it gives teens/young adults the impression that drinking excessively is a mature thing to do; most people I have met who have drank from a young age tend to see excessive drinking in a completely different light than those who get to drink when they're 18-21.
      • by Kelz (611260)
        I do find it amazing in countries like Italy or Germany where the drinking age is quite low (I think its still 14 in both countries?), theres much less of a problem with people drinking to excess than there is in America.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by winnabago (949419)
          Italy? What drinking age?
        • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Informative)

          by Baki (72515) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:32PM (#17318902)
          Most countries do not have a "drinking age". In most of europe it is forbidden to sell alcohol to minors below 16 (18 for stronger drinks above 30% alcohol) but any parent may allow his children to drink (with moderation). I used to drink some wine at dinner from age 10. I've been drunk 2 times in my life (I'm about 40 now).

          I think the US is the only country in the world with such a strict view on drinking, and it does not help. There is no less drinking amongst the youth in the US as in europe, and I just cannot understand where this phobia comes from. Maybe some after effect of the prohibition in the 1930s?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by DragonWriter (970822)
            I think the US is the only country in the world with such a strict view on drinking, and it does not help.


            Sadly, no, the US is not the only country with "such a strict view on drinking", several countries have much stricter views (e.g., Saudi Arabia.)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Gryle (933382)
            A lot of the fear is scaremongering by the Mothers/Students Against Drunk Driving organizations. At my high school these groups did some kind of presentation at least once a semester. Instead of teaching that alcohol needs to be consumed responsibly, they preached that all alcohol is bad and will make you into some kind of monster if you come within 5 feet of it. They're responsible for most of the legislations that raised the legal drinking ages.
          • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

            by adrianmonk (890071) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @12:47AM (#17322220)
            I think the US is the only country in the world with such a strict view on drinking, and it does not help. There is no less drinking amongst the youth in the US as in europe, and I just cannot understand where this phobia comes from.

            I'll assume that you don't know the answer to that since you're apparently not from the US and thus probably didn't have to take multiple years of US History in school at every level. Basically, 500 years ago, Europe wasn't so hot in the religious freedom department. So all the various groups that believed slightly differently (and I really mean only slightly differently in the grand scheme of things -- we are talking about 100 different flavors of Christianity here) couldn't practice freely, or at least not as freely as they wanted to. Consequences ranged from annoyance level to death. So there was all this land over here in the Americas, and not a hell of a lot of established bureaucracy to regulate it, and about a zillion separate groups decided, "Hey, let's go over there where we can do what we please, and we'll build a new, ideal society! We've thought about this a lot, and we think we have the correct interpretation of the Bible and that nobody else does, so once we run things according to the real Godly principles we've discovered, everything will be totally schweet and kick ass." So they did. Net result? Not only were the real religious zealots (the ones who not only took religion seriously, but so seriously that the established variation of Christianity wasn't good enough) siphoned out of Europe, but they got together and established entire (small) societies based on fairly extreme principles. So they were extreme to start with, and then they put themselves in a situation that encouraged extremeness.

            Now, all of these Utopian religious societies really didn't last. As Bruce Cockburn said, "Let's hear a laugh for the man of the world / Who thinks he can make things work / Tried to build a New Jerusalem / And ended up with New York." However, although the societies didn't work and people ended up going more mainstream, they still had a major, lasting effect, because American life continued to be pretty seriously religious even after the initial influx of religiously-motivated colonizers. First there was The Great Awakening, basically a series of revivals which swept the nation and pretty much permanently altered society. It was, if I remember right, a global event, but it pretty much centered on the US. As if that wasn't enough, there was a Second Great Awakening 100-ish years later.

            The net result of it these days is that American Christianity is somewhat of its separate thing, in the same sense that Catholicism is different from the Eastern Orthodox Church. Obviously, they all basically believe in the same things, but they don't think about it in just the same way. For example, American Christianity has tended to have a strong current of evangelicalism. It also has tended to be a little bit anti-intellectual, which has largely as a result of a reaction against The Enlightenment.

            So yeah, it's related to Prohibition. But only in the sense that both are part of a much larger trend. I have in my desk drawer a pencil with an American flag design on it and the words "LOYAL TEMPERANCE LEGION / We Stand for Total Abstinence". I got it from my grandmother's house, and I believe my grandparents got it from my grandfather's mother, who was very active in the temperance movement. It was at one time a very mainstream thing to do. And it's not completely nonexistent either -- they, in fact, still exist and have a web site [wctu.org].

            So basically, Puritanism is still alive and well in the culture in the US. There are plenty of people with more moderate views, but there is a certain balance, and both have influence.

    • Re:Legal age (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:22PM (#17317714) Homepage Journal
      Where's the ACLU when they could actually be doing something helpful.

      There's no reason why 21 should be the drinking age when 18 is the age of majority.

      People always spout some bullshit about responsibility, but the studies show that people starting to drink at 21 is more harmful than people drinking earlier. When people are younger, they have more parental supervision. They learn how to drink responsibly. When someone is 21 and out on their own, they have no parents to answer to and can do pretty much what they want.

      LK
      • Why aren't 18-20 year olds voting as a block to change the drinking laws?
    • by biocute (936687) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:24PM (#17317744) Homepage
      Well, in certain countries, you're allowed to have (consent) sex at the tender age of 16, but you're not allowed to smoke/drink until you are 18, and not allowed to gamble until 21.

      I guess it makes sense too, first you have sex, got (someone) pregnant, then you drink and smoke to numb your pain in making such a stupid mistake, and finally at 21, you resort to gambling to satisfy the needs for cigaratte, alcohol and your kid's school fees.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by D-Cypell (446534)
        Well, in certain countries, you're allowed to have (consent) sex at the tender age of 16, but you're not allowed to smoke/drink until you are 18, and not allowed to gamble until 21.

        The one that gets me is that here in the UK (and probably many other places too), you can have sex at 16, but you have to be 18 to rent a video of OTHER PEOPLE having sex.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by creimer (824291)
      Drinking is a privileged. Dying is a right. Either way, you still get taxed.
    • by plopez (54068)
      I can't remember who said it, some comdeian, but it goes like this:
      "If you're not supposed to drink and drive, why not restrict alchohol to those too young to drive?"

      It would solve a few things, eh?
    • Oh Christ, they've been having this damned debate forever, and have changed the drinking age twice in 30 years, for that reason. Kid, it's time you figured out the government doesn't make any damned sense. Forget it.
    • I still find it interesting that at 18 you're allowed join the military and die but you're not allowed to drink alcohol.

      Unless they've changed things, you can still drink on based if you are under 21.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      Well it was 18 when my parents were growing up, so they didn't care that I drank when I was 18, and I'm not going to care if my kids drink at 18. Of course after teaching them responsibility, which is the point. We have youth drinking problems in this country because we teach our kids nothing about actual responsible drinking as part of some crazy abstinance policy, then throw them into the wild when they go to college. This applies to other aspects of parenting as well.
    • In many countries (specifically Israel), the legal age for drinking is 18, which is also the legal age for driving.

      When you enroll to the military, you are NOT allowed to die. That is considered damaging military property.
    • The drinking age was raised to 21 because of an increased risk from young people drinking and driving. For
      some reason Congress decided to raise the drinking age to 21, and do nothing with the driving age. (Yes I know it was state legislatures that did it, but it was essentially a MAJOR push by the US Congress by removing highway funds if they didn't).

      Frankly I think this was backwards. Peoples first experience with alcohol tends to be underage drinking (away from the protection of parents), or after they
  • Four drinks a day? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:15PM (#17317554) Homepage Journal
    Is that four drinks every day? Or is that up to four drinks in a given 24-hour period, from time to time? - i.e. four drinks on Saturday night, then several more scattered throughout the week

    Because I don't hink I'd consider four drinks every day to be "moderate" drinking.
    • by Funkcikle (630170) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:18PM (#17317622)
      Perhaps I am just a lightweight, but if I were drinking four drinks a day I would expect my chances of dying in a variety of ways to decrease, simply due to the fact that I was spending most of my time either singing "Brown Eyed Girl" or hugging people - both known to prolong life, generate vitality and fight discombobulation of the spleen.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tx (96709)
        What do you drink, Jack Daniels by the pint? Most people I know, even lightweights, can handle an aperitif or two, a couple of glasses of wine with a meal, maybe a brandy or whisky after, without being particularly drunk. So I guess it depends what you count as one drink, and how fast you're chucking them down.
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          But if it's a work day, you don't have very much time to get all those drinks down. You wouldn't have a drink when you wake up, possibly have 1 at lunch, but then that still leaves 3 or 4 for after work. So basically you'd be getting tipsy every night.
          • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:38PM (#17319006)

            But if it's a work day, you don't have very much time to get all those drinks down.

            Wait, you don't drink at work? Insane. Our office manager picked up a couple cases of microbrew just today and stuck them in the fridge for us. We used to have to stock the fridge ourselves at my last employer. Man I love the computer industry.

    • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:20PM (#17317680)

      Shotgunning four drinks one after the other (binging, basically) is one thing. Drinking four drinks over the course of a six hour evening is something else. I'm kind of surprised at the number as well. Wikipedia's page on cirrhosis states that "There is great variability in the amount of alcohol needed to cause cirrhosis (as little as 3-4 drinks a day in some men and 2-3 in some women)." This seems to put 3-4 drinks as a LOWER bound on the danger zone. There may be people (quite a few people in fact) who can tolerate more than that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kevster (102318)
      IIRC, that's four drinks every day, but only if you drink with your meals (presumably lunch and supper). Drinking outside of mealtime (bar hopping, happy hour after work, etc.) has a negative effect.
    • by hchaos (683337) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:26PM (#17317786)
      Because I don't hink I'd consider four drinks every day to be "moderate" drinking.
      Yeah, I barely consider four drinks every day to be drinking at all!
    • by Atzanteol (99067)
      This was an Italian study. It's common in Italy to have a glass of wine with every meal. Maybe even an after-dinner drink. It's not like in America where drinking is primarily done all at night at some bar....
    • Because I don't hink I'd consider four drinks every day to be "moderate" drinking.
      I don't either, but it wouldn't be too difficult to have four drinks daily without getting drunk. One in the morning, one at lunchtime, one right after work, and one late in the evening just before going to bed. If you don't want the one in the morning, you can have one around 15:00 instead.
  • Can't drink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Terminal Saint (668751) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:15PM (#17317558)
    I wondered if they remembered to take into account people who don't drink because of pre-existing health conditions that result in shorter life spans. That's a variable they tend to forget in these studies...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by booyabazooka (833351)
      Also consider who can afford to drink regularly (and afford healthcare)... Or perhaps the simple confound that people who drink moderately tend to also take other things in moderation (cholesterol, smoking, etc.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I wondered if they remembered to take into account people who don't drink because of pre-existing health conditions that result in shorter life spans.

      Yes. Well, sort of. They normalized for dietary habits, physical activity, and general health as they correlate to drinking and it resulted in a positive correlation, but it is unclear from the summary I read if that is the number reported or a smaller positive correlation. I suspect the latter. This article about the study also left out the difference bet

    • Mod up parent (Score:2, Interesting)

      by John Jamieson (890438)
      It is amazing(troubling) the number of studies that leave out the reason for not drinking. To read the article and not see any mention of controls on reason for abstaining raises BIG question marks in my mind.

      This would not just apply to alcohol. If there was a study on Caffine, I would want the abstainers not to have chosen to refrain. Why? if the caffine leaves them feeling bad enough to quit they are already tangebly different than the average person.
  • by Programmer_In_Traini (566499) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:15PM (#17317560)
    The things I do for my health ... *hic*
  • by WhatsAProGingrass (726851) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:16PM (#17317576) Homepage
    Good moods will help prevent a cold and alcohol will extend my lifespan. Good thing alcohol puts me in a good mood.
  • To celebrate this study, I'm going to have a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey!
  • ...reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent

    So, I am 18% less likely to get shot?
    18% less likely to contract black death?
    18% less likely to bleed to death after stripping, and severing a major vein on a razor wire fence?

    AWSOME /me wanders off to find 4 bottles of rum.

    (what, they said 4 drinks!)
  • I bottle of fine Fat Tire amber ale every week is enough to keep the gnomes away!
  • If I drink a lot of red wine,
    and half-starve myself,
    and stay out of the sunlight,
    and smoke copious amounts of pot,
    and drink lots of espresso and tea...

    actually fuck it, I don't care how long I live, whatever time I have will be really goddammed fun.

  • Check out the worldwide recommendations for drinking. Currenty (as far as this chart is concerned), the # of drinks men should consume is "no more than two drinks per day", and "no more than one drink per day" for women.

    http://www.drinkingandyou.com/site/uk/biggy.htm [drinkingandyou.com]
  • breaking news! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ogive17 (691899)
    This is only the 10,000th study done (this year) on this subject stating some good can come from drinking in moderation!
  • A study on over 1 million drinkers and 94,000 deaths

    That's 906,000 people who didn't die! Pretty much 9 out of 10. I like those odds!
  • According to the data, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol -- up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women -- reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent, the team reports in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
    Will it reduce my chances of dying after being hit by a bus by 18%?
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:26PM (#17317792)
    Well, that would be *excellent*, I love a glass of wine or three a day. A beer or two on a hot day is just heavenly.

    But unfortunately the correlation may not imply causation. i.e. people who live longer drink more, but not vice-versa.

    • Maybe really sick people don't drink as much.
    • Maybe the people that have four drinks a day have to be quite healthy to keep that up day after day after day.
    • Maybe drinking keeps them off the streets, or out of other dangerous places.
    • Maybe all the 4-drink-a-day people have died already and were not around for a survey.

    Lotsa possible ways to spoil things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OriginalArlen (726444)

      unfortunately the correlation may not imply causation. i.e. people who live longer drink more, but not vice-versa.
      You are correct, Sir. Clearly, further research is indicated. Cheers! :)
  • by vmfedor (586158) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:28PM (#17317846)
    Where I live, people still make their own moonshine in their basement. My manager told me that when she starts feeling a cold coming on, she'll take a shot or two of that nasty stuff at night and then wake up feeling great. But I guess when you're drinking stuff that is used for sterilization it's not surprising. :) However, I'm curious as to whether or not the "healing effects" are lessened if you don't manage to drink every day, sort of like when you stop taking antibiotics prematurely. Chock one up to good old fashioned redneck ingenuity. :P
  • Does drinking more reduce my chances of dying from drinking and driving by 18%? Practice makes perfect!
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:29PM (#17317868) Homepage Journal
    Homer: "To alcohol, the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems"
  • Stats 101... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dzimas (547818) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:30PM (#17317880)
    Correlation does not imply causation. All we can say is that "people who drink a bit of alcohol tend to live longer," not that alcohol prolongs their lives. It could be that these individuals take the time to socialize and de-stress, which causes them to live longer. Or perhaps there are financial factors at play: someone who can afford to drink three or four bottles of wine a week is not likely to be living in abject poverty. Of course, it could also be that anti-oxidant properties of the beverages have a positive effect as well.
    • Re:Stats 101... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:25PM (#17318792)

      Correlation does not imply causation.

      Actually, correlation frequently implies causation. Much of science is looking at correlations and testing to find corresponding causations. Correlation does not necessarily imply a given causation. You are correct in so much as this study does not provide any proof that drinking will cause you to live longer. It was, however, normalized for several other strong correlations, such as medical conditions and dietary habits. If you're looking to live longer, drinking a few drinks a day may help or it may not. I think it's worth a shot, but I was going to do it anyway.

  • Isn't the "risk of death from any cause" pretty much always 100%?
  • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:47PM (#17318156) Homepage Journal
    The one thing that these types of articles always seem to do is to lump all types of alcohol together although there are several different types of alcohol sources. I'm not a connoisseur by any stretch, but I've heard from people who are in the medical profession that the body reacts very differently to different types of alcohol and that different types have different health benefits.

    As I understand it, and I have full confidence in the Slashdot crowd to let me know if I'm wrong, red wine alcohol comes from the sugar fermentation of red grapes and contains quite a bit of healthy anti-oxidants. White wine, on the other hand, contains far fewer anti-oxidants and therefore does not have the health benefits of red wine. In fact, the anti-oxidants entry on Wikipedia also makes this claim. Conversely, the alcohol in harder drinks like whiskey is grain-based alcohol that generally has little health benefits, not including its ability to wipe out the weaker brain cells. ;)

    Friends of mine who are very much into drinking and partying have said from their own experience that the alcohol buzz from sources like grapes is vastly different and impacts them differently than the grain alcohol in harder drinks. (Yes, I'm aware that the smart-ass responses to that almost write themselves.)

    But even a friend's mom who is a registered nurse got on his case one time when he got plastered from a combination of wine and spirits, claiming that, "Mixing those types of alcohol together is incredibly dangerous!"

    Again, as one not involved in the medical profession I can only make suppositions on all of this. But it does bother me how reports like this have a tendency of throwing around the generic term "alcohol" as though it encompasses all drinks when that should not necessarily be the case.
    • As a homebrewer... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raddan (519638)
      The stuff you mention is all anecdotal. I am not a chemist (but I am a homebrewer), and here's what I understand to be the difference between various alcoholic beverages. In the form that humans consume, there are basically two types of alcohol: ethyl and methyl. Yeast produce both, with ethyl alcohol in the greater quantity. Both forms of alchol are 'poisonous', but of the two ethyl is definitely preferable. Methyl breaks down to formaldehyde in your liver, which, among many nasty things, will cause y
  • by o'reor (581921) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:53PM (#17318264) Journal
    A few studies mentioned in this Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] tend to demonstrate that there could be a benefit in drinking red wine because of polyphenols [wikipedia.org]. These studies have been wildly popular on "zis side of ze pond" particularly among wine traders and farmers. And doctors, too. My father, who has a heart disease, has been prescribed at least half a glass of red wine a day (which pisses him off, because he hates red wine !).

    Finding out who paid for these studies and the publicizing of their results, is another story... With alcohol and wine lobbies strongly rooted in the french political life, and recently getting into academic funding, you should always follow the money before you make your mind about these studies...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by russotto (537200)
      In the semi-Puritan US, where the government and talking heads really hate to say anything positive about alcohol, I take theories about polyphenols and flavenoids to largely be an attempt to conceal the conclusion that many studies keep pointing to. Namely, that there's benefit from alcohol consumption. And not just moderate (by US standards) consumption, but frequent consumption (moderate by European standards). The studies keep showing it, but the govt and talking heads still keep talking about alcoho
  • by daveewart (66895) on Thursday December 21, 2006 @07:58AM (#17323784)

    One thing it's always important to consider when looking at the health consequences of a human-controllable factor such as drinking alcohol is: some people may make a decision about how much alcohol to drink and this decision is based on a reason related to their current health.

    For example, those who are already unwell or have a chronic condition may well decide to avoid alcohol completely, or have this recommended to them by their doctors. This means that the future outcomes recorded for "those who do not drink, or who drink very little" can be biased to some extent by the fact that they are already at a higher risk of disease or death. Getting this sort of bias measured is incredibly difficult.

    If this happens, then you get a mortality relationship which seems to be telling you: drinking almost nothing has a modest mortality rate (because it includes all those who have been avoid alcohol); a small amount of alcohol, consumed by largely health-conscious people leads to a lower mortality rate; then higher levels of alcohol lead to higher mortality rates. At face value, this suggests that "drinking a small amount of alcohol is good for you". While this may be true, you have to be very careful in interpreting the results.

    Basically, this boils down to the difference between: some people get ill or die because they drink a lot, and some people drink very little because they are already ill.

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