With alcohol, it’s complicated

There are often arguments about the benefits and disadvantages that go along with diet. The reason is that research into these benefits and risks does not typically include a causation analysis but rather correlation analysis. That is not to say of course that finding correlations is necessarily meaningless and can indicate a causative relationship.

Keeping this in mind, there has been plenty of research on the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption. Generally the agreement has been, if you drink alcohol be sure to drink it in moderation. As an example, 20 or more drinks a day has been shown to be correlated with a large increase in risk of developing breast cancer, a 41 percent increase compared to those who don’t drink.

Studies have also shown that there is a increased risk of problems at birth for child and mother for any amount of consumption of alcohol.

On the flip side, there have been benefits related to moderate alcohol consumption, for instance it has been shown that there appears to be a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Also the risk of gallstones has been shown to decrease, along with dementia.

It seemed pretty clear however that the risks were essentially related to overconsumption of alcohol, and the benefits came with moderate alcohol consumption (moderate meaning 1 drink or less per day). Yet a recent study has put even that into question. The report did an analysis of 119 studies with data of over 12 million women and it found that even moderate consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing breast cancer. The risks are of course not as high as is associated with high consumption but there seems to be a clear correlation.

So the question becomes is it really worth it to even consume a moderate amount of alcohol? Are there other risks related to moderate alcohol consumption? Would you be better off to drink grape juice to get the benefits of alcohol consumption without the risks?

Perhaps with further studies we can get some answers to these questions.


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