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Medicine

Alcohol's Evaporating Health Benefits 305

New submitter Heart44 writes: A study in the British Medical Journal shows that consuming alcohol — any volume, any type — does not increase life expectancy. The full academic paper is not paywalled. From its conclusions: "Beneficial associations between low intensity alcohol consumption and all cause mortality may in part be attributable to inappropriate selection of a referent group and weak adjustment for confounders. Selection biases may also play a part." The associated editorial adds, "Firstly, in health as elsewhere, if something looks too good to be true, it should be treated with great caution. Secondly, health professionals should discourage suggestions that even low level alcohol use protects against cardiovascular disease and brings mortality benefits. Thirdly, health advice should come from health authorities, not from the alcohol industry, and, finally, the alcohol industry and its organizations should remove misleading references to health benefits from their information materials."
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Alcohol's Evaporating Health Benefits

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  • I love you man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:08PM (#49029509)

    You are the greatest, did you know than man. I mean I really Reealy love you. Now what was this article about. Oh. To your heath! cheers.
    Seriously, alchohol can creat fun opportunities to socialize and that's well known to be one of the singlemost important aspects of a healthy life. Or any life at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 )

      It makes you wonder about this study. One would think that socializing, as promoted by moderate alcohol consumption would have a massive improvement on health and lifespan. If this study is not seeing that then either the assumption that happiness among freinds is a boon is wrong or that alcohol entirely offsets that. The third possibility, that they controlled for this, I'll dismiss. Finding people who socialized without alcohol would put this control group in rare company; they would biased comparabl

      • by pr100 ( 653298 )

        I'm not sure what you're saying.

        I'm not drinking alcohol at all this year (just as an experiment - I'm not a recovering alcoholic or anything like that). I don't think that this has made any difference to my socialising.

        • I'm not drinking alcohol at all this year (just as an experiment - I'm not a recovering alcoholic or anything like that). I don't think that this has made any difference to my socialising.

          Yeah, but you've probably already established a (meatspace) social network prior to this.

        • I'm not sure what you're saying.

          I'm not drinking alcohol at all this year (just as an experiment - I'm not a recovering alcoholic or anything like that). I don't think that this has made any difference to my socialising.

          "Getting drunk never helped me get laid, so maybe staying sober will".

        • I'm not drinking alcohol at all this year (just as an experiment - I'm not a recovering alcoholic or anything like that).

          Me too, though for different reasons. I ran out a few years ago and have been too lazy to go to the liquor store (the ABC store here in VA) to get some more. I do like beer, but don't often drink it because, I think, the Hops gives me a headache -- I have an allergy to pine needles.

        • For many drinking MODERATE amounts of alcohol can ease tension and increase confidence (or conversely make you less self-conscience) which usually leads you to do things you wouldn't normally do. Whether this behavior is a blessing or a curse is dependent on the behavior and the circumstance but it will most likely lead to a different outcome than had you not been drinking. So your experiment would be more accurate if you clone yourself and have one of yourselves drinking and the other sober in the same sit
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Vintermann ( 400722 )

            Something rather important is that all or virtually all of that effect is in your socialization and expectations around alcohol, not the alcohol itself. There are plenty of classic studies showing that people who believe they consume alcohol, behave as if they really did - and conversely, that alcohol does very little to your inhibitions unless you figure out that's what they're feeding you.

            So no, it doesn't really make you do things you normally wouldn't do. It just gives you an excuse - one your surroundi

            • So no, it doesn't really make you do things you normally wouldn't do. It just gives you an excuse - one your surroundings believe in, and one you probably believe in yourself.

              Overstated.

              It can indeed make you do things you would not normally do, by effecting your judgement. In turn by depressing parts of the brain that control higher-order function.

              Whether it helps socialization may be disputed, but lapses of judgment during overuse is a pretty solidly established, objective fact.

      • by sycodon ( 149926 )

        It makes you wounder why we pay attention to any study. Seems like most studies usually have contradictory results and then are summarily reversed years later. [cbsnews.com]

        • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @01:47PM (#49030631) Homepage Journal

          One thing to keep in mind is this observation: There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics. [wikipedia.org]

          Another is that we really don't know how the body works yet, as evidenced by the (still) constantly shifting winds around cholesterol, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, breast milk, and so on.

          It's also worth keeping in mind that a lot of "official information" (such as the food pyramid, almost anything at all related to the "drug war" and more) is utter nonsense cobbled up for reasons entirely unrelated to your well-being, or lack thereof, and that places ranging from GNC to Walmart have been caught red-handed selling what amounts to sawdust in bottles labeled as various herbs.

          It seems to me that the appropriate behavior WRT one's health at this time is moderation in all consumables of interest, avoidance of things your taste or immune system makes clear to you aren't positive experiences for you, while only really staying clear of things that science has actually nailed to the wall as seriously harmful, such as cocaine, tobacco, meth, any addictive substances (there really aren't all that many of these, it isn't much of an inconvenience to avoid them even if you're into drugs as entertainment.) Pay attention to your body's response to things you ingest. It's a simple enough idea, but one a lot of people simply don't take seriously. Drinking enough to ruin your next morning? Might be an important message in that for you...

          Get regular exercise -- I'm talking every day -- and don't sit at a desk (or anywhere else) for too long at any one time.

          Couple all that with carefully avoiding the legal system (inasmuch as the government spends a great deal of effort trying to turn your personal choices into excuses for jailing you) and you might survive long enough to see science figure out how we actually work -- and I suspect that will arrive at nearly the same time as solutions for the various downsides of this and that.

      • While the study normalized for socialization, which may favor saying alcohol is bad, studies that say people who drink a moderate amount is good for you have removed people who drink excessively. Having a society that encourages moderate drinking will probably increase the amount of heavy drinkers.

        Also maybe people who don't drink don't like to socialize as much because they don't like hanging out with a bunch of drunks. Most social gatherings are based on alcohol consumption. If we had more events that whe

      • The socializing isn't a property of the alcohol. Sure, in a society where everyone drinks alcohol and you are seen as an outcast and weird if you don't drink alcohol, then not drinking means less socialization and less happiness, possibly less lifespan. But if you ask me, the blame for that should be placed on the culture, not the people who refuse to conform to it.

        But yes, as Ben Goldacre pointed out long ago, in the UK at least most people drink, and those who don't are probably different in lots of other

      • by spitzak ( 4019 )

        I think that is exactly the sort of thing they are talking about when it says previous studies had "weak adjustment for confounders".

    • by cohomology ( 111648 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:46PM (#49029957)

      After a major health crisis, one doctor told me: "We don't cure people so they can live miserable lives without wine."

    • Lez jush keep drinkin untilz a compeeting paper comez out nex year.

    • No one is saying don't drink alcohol. They're saying don't drink alcohol to improve your health. Drink it in spite of what it may be doing to your health ;)

    • No, there's a new paper and THAT'S THE LAST WORD. Everyone update their recommendations and reprint their pamphlets, immediately! I think this is what Scott Adams was ranting about a few weeks ago. You're right, though, and one other thing that alcohol does even if drinking alone is to relax you, lift your spirits and get your mind off whatever stressful events actually are draining your life force. I appreciate people doing all this research, but they need to show a little humility. Hard work doesn't mean
  • by unixcorn ( 120825 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:09PM (#49029513)

    Consuming alcohol certainly does improve life expectancy. Drinking is the only thing keeping me from killing someone almost every day!

    • It definitely improves my expectancy*. Until the next morning, anyway.

      ex pect an cy
      noun the state of thinking or hoping that something, especially something pleasant, will happen or be the case.

    • Here in Texas that would count double, given the death penalty and all. I wonder if they made a "strong adjustment for psychological remediation" or even "capital punishment prevention", seems like they missed a few confounders in there.

    • "Drinking is the only thing keeping me from killing someone almost every day!"

      For proof, look at the death rate in that one part of the world where for religious reasons nobody drinks and where they can't substitute sex, as in Utah.

  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:13PM (#49029561) Homepage

    The real take home lesson for this is not to put much faith in any observational study. Such studies typically inflate the magnitude of the putative effect (both for 'good' and 'bad'), typically use inappropriate statistical methodology and suffer from various well known sources of bias (as noted in TFA).

    Unfortunately, it makes progress in the medical field very slow and inconsistent since good studies are difficult to impossible to do. Basically, you're gonna die at some point. Within some broad levels of moderation, do what makes you happy. Imbibe what ever makes you feel good.

    Don't sweat the details. Even though we live in a world with horrible chemicals, air pollution, endocrine disrupters, radiation, GMOs and PETA most of the Western world is living longer and healthier than ever. Not that there aren't problems with the world - presumably we can do better, but the constant drumbeat of falling skies can safely be ignored.

    • Basically, you're gonna die at some point.

      Citation please.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @03:18PM (#49031731) Homepage Journal

      The real take home lesson for this is not to put much faith in any observational study.

      Right - there was a study out just a month or two ago that demonstrated that a few specific genotypes process alcohol differently than others and do have a real benefit. No doubt _this_ study was in publication before that one came out.

      Most of these broad pronouncements for a population are worthless - humans aren't so homogenous.

      Still, unless you know you have that genotype, you may be doing yourself harm, especially in regards to cancer, so take it easy on the hootch.

  • The Pendulum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScooterComputer ( 10306 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:13PM (#49029563)

    So, the pendulum has finally swung back to center, where anyone with an ounce of intellect could have figured it belonged all along. Alcohol isn't "good for you", moderate consumption is neither good nor particularly bad, and overconsumption (as with most things) has consequences. Hysteria on both sides--prohibitionists and snake-oil peddlers--discredited.

    Not surprised.

    • So, the pendulum has finally swung back to center, where anyone with an ounce of intellect could have figured it belonged all along.

      Until the next study comes along...

    • You say that like it's a real thing with alcohol.

      The reality is that the needle pretty much swings right or left.

  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:18PM (#49029627) Homepage

    Eggs are bad for you! Eggs are good for you! Meat is bad for you! Meat is good for you! Alcohol is good for you! Alcohol isn't good for you!

    I swear, if you listen to and heed all this advice you will go crazy. I think the best thing to do is ignore all this crap, eat *reasonably* (not too much of any one thing, have a balanced diet) and just ENJOY the things you like, regardless of people saying they're good or bad for you, because life is short anyway and we might as well enjoy it while we have it.

    I see so many eating bland vegan diets, thinking it's so good for them; I doubt any of them will live longer than typical omnivores.

    • Yeah, Clorox naysayers!!!

    • Eggs are bad for you! Eggs are good for you! Meat is bad for you! Meat is good for you! Alcohol is good for you! Alcohol isn't good for you!...

      Yeah, it's enough to drive one to drinking....

      Maybe there should be a survey done about the effects on longevity based upon whether or not one reads all these "studies".

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I see so many eating bland vegan diets, thinking it's so good for them; I doubt any of them will live longer than typical omnivores.

      And now studies are showing that while vegetarians do have a "healthier" weight on average they are overall less healthy and live shorter lives than omnivores.

    • by neminem ( 561346 )

      At this point, it's pretty much conclusively determined that pretty much everything except for literal poison is both good for you in some way, and bad for you in some other way. And that's probably not even wrong - everything probably really *is* both good and bad for you. So screw it, eat what you like. (Unless it's literal poison.)

    • Eggs are bad for you! Eggs are good for you! Meat is bad for you! Meat is good for you! Alcohol is good for you! Alcohol isn't good for you!

      I swear, if you listen to and heed all this advice you will go crazy. I think the best thing to do is ignore all this crap, eat *reasonably* (not too much of any one thing, have a balanced diet) and just ENJOY the things you like, regardless of people saying they're good or bad for you, because life is short anyway and we might as well enjoy it while we have it.

      I see so many eating bland vegan diets, thinking it's so good for them; I doubt any of them will live longer than typical omnivores.

      While this is true, the only reason we know what a 'balanced' diet looks like, or what it's *near* atleast, is the years of study. There's nothing to say what a balanced diet is without some understanding of the component parts and their effect on your body.

      Unfortunately it looks like with our current research methodology we are at the limits of what can be said about food... we're now wobbling around saying things are good, and then bad, and then maybe neutral. You're right about not listening too much to

    • You make the mistake of listening to articles about scientific research instead of actually reading the research. Additionally, you make the mistake of thinking that one study == Truth. Especially in biology and medecine, with hugely complicated machines and enormous difficulty setting up good controls, a single study is almost meaningless.

      Wait for studies to confirm others, wait for things to percolate through the scientific community, then start paying attention to it.

    • Someday soon, there will be the acknowledgement that - including taking our microbiomes into account - we only *look* the same but there are some weird cohorts below the racial and familial but above the DNA level that finally answers why studies like this and the same studies re-ran can be such a 'random walk' in their near-useless results.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:25PM (#49029691) Homepage
    1. That giant frozen bullet train traveling at six times the speed of sound through crowded metropolitan areas is not only fake, but scientifically impossible.
    2. Budweiser is found with friends and during good times, but is also accompanied by its lesser known entourage blurred vision, karaoke, screaming, and in high levels nudity and parking lot fits of vomiting.
    3. The anthropomorphic frogs could never enunciate a trademarked brand name, and the black screaming "whats up" men were no more than modern day black minstrel charicatures. your black friends cannot be counted on to make this noise as consistently as claimed.
    4. patron, fireball, hennessey, hypnotiq, and hundreds of other brands arent directly marketed to youth. Unless you count about a hundred different songs or more that directly associate them with happiness, friendship, and success.
    5. 7 martinis and a suit makes you a vomiting insurance liability, not james bond.
    6. Dogs and clydesdales do not drink or transport alcohol anymore. Alcohol is transported through a sophisticated network of trucking and trans national freight.
    7. Your government lies to you about alcohol because it enjoys a sizeable degree of revenue from its sale through artificially imposed monopoly, driving checkpoints, fines, and incarceration.
  • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:25PM (#49029707)
    I'm just saying after a year in the control group I'd have been ready to end it all :)
  • Not a study (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:27PM (#49029723) Journal

    Very misleading summary (yeah, duh). This is not a study, it is an editorial. Someone's opinion. It says so right at the top. Note at the bottom of the article; "Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed."

    It's incredibly misleading to cite this article as a "study", all it is is an opinion piece article, nothing more.

  • "Beneficial associations between low intensity alcohol consumption and all cause mortality may in part be attributable to inappropriate selection of a referent group and weak adjustment for confounders. Selection biases may also play a part."

    ... and the pint of strong lager that they drank before working on the paper probably didn't help much either.

  • Everyone knows e-cigs are the new excuse to do something you know deep in your mind is bad but write it off as being okay.
  • Exercise is the area where a lot of people can attain significant, proven health benefits.
  • Sounds like a bunch of teatotaller biased bullshit.

    Don't even drink any more, but this is stupid. Thinning your blood minorly once per day has got to be good for your heart rather than it pounding full strength all the time.

    Whatever, this is nonsense. Next they'll say vaccines are bad for you...

    This world is turning stupider by the second.

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:50PM (#49030007) Homepage
    Yes, it is a cliche, but an accurate one. It became a cliche because of how often people make the mistake.

    The quiet truth is that if you are sick or have any real health issues, you stop drinking alcohol. Alcohol is a powerful drug that affects your body in many ways. If you are not healthy, you often can not drink it.

    Moreover, most healthy people in the US drink alcohol. It is one of the primary social activities that people engage in. Look at dating events, they almost always alcohol.

    As such, people that do not drink alcohol fall into three general categories. Religious, Sickly, and Ex-Alcoholics.

    So cause and effect were reversed. Being healthy lets you drink alcohol, rather than drinking alcohol making you healthy.

    • >>As such, people that do not drink alcohol fall into three general categories. Religious, Sickly, and Ex-Alcoholics.

      Actually I know a bunch of non-drinkers who simply don't like the taste (beer, wine, hard liquor, etc.)
      • I can definitely agree with this.

        I know many people, including myself, that don't drink alcohol because it tastes bad. I have tried various kinds of alcohol and in all cases it has tasted worse than other drinks I could get.

        There is supposed to be a mutation in a very small percentage of people and it gives alcohol a pretty nasty taste.

        I have NO ethical problems with alcohol, I don't mind being around others that are drinking it I just don't like it myself.

      • Count me in that group too. I used to be all uptight about alcohol, but I got over it with age. Now that I'm theoretically ok with making oneself stupider, I've tried to take up drinking. But I find that all the alcoholic beverages I've tried to drink taste horrendously bad. I've so far been unable to drink enough alcohol to notice any effects on myself (it takes me about an hour and a half to choke down a bottle of beer). I don't know how you all manage to consume that stuff.
  • by shabble ( 90296 ) <qkjj13x02@sneakemail.com> on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @12:56PM (#49030091)

    http://velvetgloveironfist.blo... [blogspot.co.uk]

    The [lack of health benefits] claim is based on the fact that most of the risk reductions in the latter two tables are not statistically significant, except for women aged 65 and over. But there is a simple reason for this which some cynical people would call a trick. A relatively small sample has been taken and then split into different age groups, sexes and consumption levels to create dozens of even smaller samples. This, combined with the fact that there are relatively few never-drinkers to use as a reference, makes it very difficult to generate statistically significant results from any individual group.

    If you combined the age groups, the reduction in mortality would reach significance. If you combined the genders, it would reach significance. If you combined the various different drinking levels and simply compared those who drank moderately with those who never drank, it would reach significance.

  • Hey....shut up.

  • A study in the British Medical Journal shows that consuming alcohol — any volume, any type — does not increase life expectancy.

    That is the type of conclusions you get when you entrust research to the "scientitsts" types who never leave the lab.

    Alcohol helps overcome stress, which otherwise would cause more harm to health than the alcohol

    Alcohol helps to "loosen" up, which these days seems to be the only reason why western civilization is still procreating. Being born is the biggest health benefit a human can experience in their life.

    • It is the same as with the fight against smoking.

      Some science heads, beyound their health effect studies, are simply incapable of seeing the simple primitive truth of the smoking: it is a *social* habit.

      It is not about smoking per se, it is about a short break from the daily routine and a chance of sharing five minutes with your buddies.

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @01:14PM (#49030273)

    Aspartame. Oh wait, no they didn't. They just took the paid-for conclusion by the FDA that ant killer makes a safe substitute for refined sugar.
    Thalidomide. Oh wait, no, they completely ignore the MASSES of evidence of the harmful effects of thalidomide (missing limbs, protruding spinal clusters, etc) and give the go ahead to reintroduce it as a fucking antidepressant!
    Dietery fat and its connection to heart disease. Oh, wait, nope again. Not one single peer reviewed study into the connection at all, ever, anywhere by anybody yet the BMJ continues to publish unfounded claims that fat=bad.
    The resurgence of poliomyelitis and the concurrent (some might say contemporaneous) emergence of a previously little-known condition variously called Lou Gehrig's Disease, ALS, Motor Neurone Disease, Post Polio Residual Paralysis... all sharing the same root cause and displaying shockingly similar symptomology yet the BMJ being an industrial journal pursues the industry line that it's most certainly definitely NOT actually caused by the live polio vaccine in spite of ample evidence that puts it beyond the Black Swan level of anomaly and firmly into the "merits further study" box.

    When somebody says something is impossible, and someone else proves them wrong by a SINGLE proof sample, that's not an anomaly, that's SCIENCE.

  • Last night around 7pm I had a couple of ciders as an experiment as to the effects on my sleep. Even with that little alcohol I woke up at 4 and stayed awake till 6. Damn, there goes another fun thing out of my life. Alcohol is definitely not worth the life disruption. An age thing I guess.
  • ...Wait 18 months and we'll change our minds again. Because, you know, Science.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @01:30PM (#49030447) Homepage

    Good Bourbon and Whiskey increase the QUALITY of life dramatically.

  • ~ Your cholesterol level is 500! Wait, you haven't been using sunblock, have you?

    ~ Umm, well, yeah.

    ~ You IDIOT!

    .
  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2015 @03:09PM (#49031603)

    And I say this knowing that most people use alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks per day). But I also know that alcohol is a massive problem in society. Have a read at this --> http://ncadd.org/index.php/in-... [ncadd.org]

    If you include deaths from drunk driving then alcohol is the single biggest killer in the United States - ahead of tobacco and all other illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.) combined. Not to mention assaults, etc. that are often fueled at least in part by alcohol.

    The notion that alcohol has health benefits is complete bunk. Red wine is probably the only one that can even make a case for it, although the amount of anti oxidants present in wine are minuscule at best. Certainly nowhere near that amounts that you would find in dark berry fruits such as cranberries and blueberries.

    So what of the negative effects? Have a read --> http://www.webmd.com/mental-he... [webmd.com]

    Alcohol is toxic to human liver cells. If you have 1-2 drinks a day then the amount of toxins are negligible. More than that and there is a good chance that eventually you will develop cirrhosis of the liver. Or cardiovascular disease. Or certain types of cancer.

    I'm not saying that we should ban alcohol or that everyone should stop drinking. It's your body - do with it as you will. But I simply cannot accept the premise that alcohol is "healthy" in any way.

  • A biotoxin that kills basically all known living cells isn't good to drink? YOU DON'T SAY?! By the way, I've noticed a pattern. The doctors that say drinking a glass of wine per night if good for you are also incredibly fat and thus complete hypocrites and possibly alcoholics.

Of course there's no reason for it, it's just our policy.

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