I hardly need to break a sweat to find abundant evidence that drinking alcohol is good for me. Wine, beer and even hard liquor can boast as being “healthy” drinks, so long as we ignore the ample downside evidence.
The latest study to boost our claim to being health-conscious when we consume alcohol comes from that bastion of beer-drinkers and self-proclaimed “hosers” – Canada. The study of 5,404 middle-aged people began with a baseline age of 50 years, and a much later follow-up, to determine the quality of life of moderate drinkers versus non- or heavy drinkers.
Ignoring the methodology and correlational flaws of the study, and even discounting the definition of “middle-aged” to include people in their late sixties, the study did show conclusively that those people who enjoyed at least one drink per week and up to 3 or 4 drinks per day reported a better quality of life than those who did not indulge.
Add onto this study the documented benefits of wine on the cardiovascular system, and its ability to raise good cholesterol while also providing a surge of antioxidants fore our system, and one could be tempted to raise a glass in celebration of inebriation! However, studies also show that overindulgence decreases the gains made by moderate consumption of wine. Additionally, wine increases triglycerides in the blood.
The belching, beer-bellied, stained tee-shirt wearing Bud or Canadian drinker may wish to gloat, after hearing that beer may be able to ward off Alzheimer’s and diabetes, while supplementing our body’s calcium needs and supply of anti-oxidants. But instead of gloating, over-consumption of beer may, indeed, be the cause of the ample waistline, since it is full of empty calories. Light beer won’t save you from the negative impact of drinking, though, since, in the ultra-low calorie beers, the nutrition found in the grains may be reduced. Regular light beers, on the other hand, are only about 30% lower in calories than regular (140 versus 100).
That leaves hard alcohol. It, too, can claim to be good at increasing good cholesterol in your blood. But it carries the reputation of contributing to liver damage, including liver cancer. In middle age, when most of us are more susceptible to heart and blood disorders, the moderate consumption of hard liquor may be more beneficial than harmful, if we set aside the high caloric intake associated with hard liquor and soft drink mixes.
However, the balancing act between healthy and unhealthy impacts of drinking leads directly back to the study that shows a better quality of life in moderate drinkers than non-drinkers. Could it be simply that we enjoy a higher quality of life when we socialize and have a network of friends (which is when we consume most of our alcohol)? If so, could the key to a better quality of life be found more in drinking up friendships and community or family participation than in drinking up our favourite alcoholic beverage?