November is one of my favorite months of the year. It kicks off the holiday season when friends and family gather to celebrate, share good cheer, and toast to each other’s health.
Of course, the number of glasses you raise in toast is—once again—a major debate in the scientific community.
On one hand, you have the modern-day puritans—a new generation of control freaks who seek to ban alcohol, just like they’ve nearly done with tobacco.
These neo-prohibitionists often cite questionable studies showing that no amount of alcohol is safe for your health.
On the other hand, there are people like me, who believe decades of reputable research showing that consistent, moderate intake of alcohol can protect against chronic diseases.
This debate came to a head (beer pun intended) recently, when a pair of dueling studies on alcohol were published back-to-back—garnering major headlines.
Today, I’ll share with you the science-backed facts to settle this debate… and why it’s good news for your holiday festivities.
A drink a day helps keep heart disease away—especially if you’re over 55
The first study was published in late August in BMC Medicine. Researchers from University College in London analyzed six clinical trials involving more than 35,000 adults in the U.K. and France over a 10-year period.1
During that time, about 5 percent of the study participants developed heart disease, and 1 percent died from it.
The researchers found that the participants who consistently drank moderate amounts of alcohol had a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to those who didn’t. This was especially true for people over age 55.
Furthermore, the study showed that consistent, moderate alcohol consumption was more protective for the heart than drinking in years past, but then giving it up in later life.
My conclusion? This is just one more solid study to add to the pile of research detailing the significant heart benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
Alcohol combats the real cause of heart disease
Studies like this have never been a surprise to me, even back when the mainstream medical community was all in a tizzy about research from France showing the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
The neo-puritans called this nothing more than a “paradox.” Maybe that’s because they still don’t understand the real cause of heart disease. As I’ve reported many times before, heart disease isn’t caused by eating too much salt, or cholesterol. And it isn’t the result of eating saturated fat or red meat.
In other words, it’s not caused by any of the government’s favorite scapegoats, which have been all wrong, all along.
Instead, the main cause of high blood pressure and heart disease is stress. In fact, together with chronic inflammation, stress lies behind virtually every major chronic disease of our time.
And what reduces stress? Activities such as light to moderate daily exercise, meditation, getting out in Nature, and a drink or two at the end of a hard day.
But of course, logical, science-based conclusions like that don’t work on nanny-state prohibitionists. Or, sadly, some researchers…
An alcohol study that doesn’t compare grapes to grapes
The very next day after the impressive new study from University College London was published, the neo-puritans struck back.
An analysis in Lancet of studies conducted worldwide between 1990 and 2016 purported to show there is zero safe level of alcohol consumption for anyone, anywhere in the world.2
But there are several major flaws with this wild proclamation.
First of all, the analysis relied on more than 1,000 studies conducted in 195 different countries. That sounds impressive until you realize this is a mishmash of studies from different populations, places, cultures, and lifestyles around the world. So drawing blanket, one-size-fits-all conclusions is pretty reckless.
For example, the findings from impoverished, poorly nourished countries aren’t remotely comparable to a large, developed country like the United States. So it’s no surprise that the study authors admitted it’s unclear whether their outlandish “zero alcohol” finding even applies to the vast majority of Americans. (Of course, you’d never know about that uncertainty from the headlines that appeared in every major media outlet, trumpeting dire anti-alcohol warnings.)
Then there’s their laundry list of supposed ills that alcohol can cause. One of them is tuberculosis—a disease that, fortunately, most Americans never have to worry about.
But what about diseases that are common in the U.S.? Well, the study claims that alcohol somehow indirectly contributes to cancer and other chronic diseases through complex, unproven mechanisms. Doesn’t sound very convincing, does it?
The half-percent risk factor
The final factor that makes this study so flawed is the blatant statistical manipulation. Chiefly, their finding that people who have one drink (or 10 grams of alcohol) per day have a 0.5 percent higher risk of health problems compared to non-drinkers.
Let me repeat that. They say you have merely half a percent increased risk of developing alcohol-related health problems—including self-harm and drunk-driving fatalities—if you drink moderately.
By contrast, other (well-designed) studies typically show that moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a 30 to 50 percent reduced risk of heart disease. And more recently, evidence is also mounting that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial for brain health.
Lost among all of this neo-prohibition hype is that buried deep within the Lancet study’s results, these researchers also confirm the heart-health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. They indicate that a drink a day can lower men’s and women’s risk of developing Type II diabetes as well.
And since heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans, particularly as we get older, and diabetes is the leading cause of cardio-metabolic heart disease, this study is actually showing us the opposite of what the researchers intended.
The three tactics prohibitionists use to dismiss real science
The real lesson both of these studies deliver is that moderate alcohol consumption can indeed help prevent heart disease and diabetes among middle-aged and older men and women.
But heaven forbid real science stand in the way of the prohibitionist agenda!
After all, the first tactic of behavioral-control freaks is to repeat the lie that alcohol in any quantity is unsafe. The more they get this message into the mainstream, the better their cause.
And if that doesn’t work, the second tactic they use is to warn that your personal behavior is a threat to others—like driving drunk.
Yet, as I stress with most aspects of health, it’s all about moderation. (Except when it comes to the government’s paltry recommended daily allowances on vitamins. In this case, more is better). So realistically, the one or two drinks I recommend per day aren’t going to harm you or anyone else.
Of course, when that message gets through, prohibitionists break out the last tactic in their shoddy arsenal: When all else fails, and the science defies the argument at hand, simply deny that the science exists…
What’s the government really afraid of?
In June, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) pulled funding from a trial on the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.3 Of course, this worldwide study of 7,800 people would have confirmed definitive, final evidence of what other studies have shown for years.
This is another one of mainstream medicine’s favorite tactics in their vendetta against natural health approaches. Just when a bunch of studies on a drug-free solution start to show benefits, the mainstream insists that very difficult, very long, very expensive clinical trials must be conducted to tediously pore over the data. Meanwhile, the longer the research drags on, the more people end up suffering the—often fatal—consequences.
So, although the health benefits of moderate drinking should be a settled question by now, NIH suddenly pulled the plug when the Moderate Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health Trial (MACH15) had just begun—citing several ridiculous reasons that apply to virtually every clinical trial that’s ever been done…
For example, one of the reasons NIH shut down the study is because the scientists spoke with representatives from the alcohol industry, which was providing some (but far from all) funding.4
Oh, please. If government researchers weren’t allowed to talk to (or accept funding from) big pharma, there would be zero research on new drugs, and new drugs would never be approved.
But I guess the same standards don’t apply to nature-based substances like alcohol?
How much should you drink?
So, in the absence of the “definitive” government study, we’ll just need to consult the dozens of clinical trials that already exist on alcohol consumption.
That research consistently shows the following moderate drinking levels can help protect against heart disease, diabetes, and dementia:
• 14 or fewer drinks a week for men
• 7 or fewer drinks a week for women
As for what type of alcohol you should fill your glass with, it’s a matter of preference.
Some researchers assumed the resveratrol in red wine—instead of white wine, beer, or other types of alcohol—was the special, “magic bullet” ingredient that conferred all the observed health benefits.
But that “magic bullet” theory never made sense to me—and it never materialized. In fact, as I’ve said for 25 years, trying to find a single, “magic” ingredient in alcohol (or in anything, really) that confers health benefits is a waste of time and research money.
It’s obvious that drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol lowers stress, the No. 1 silent killer lurking behind high blood pressure, heart disease, Type II diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Plus, more recent studies show that drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol—whether wine, beer, or spirits—confer benefits for your brain and heart.
As far as I’m concerned, this case is settled. So have a couple extra glasses of holiday cheer this month and toast to whatever you’d like, with whatever you’d like! (Just be sure you arrange a safe ride home.)
According to Aristotle, virtue is a mean between excess and deficiency. So this Thanksgiving, let’s raise a glass to virtue… and good health.
1“Association of longitudinal alcohol consumption trajectories with coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of six cohort studies using individual participant data.” BMC Medicine 201816:124.
2“Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.” Lancet. 2018 Aug 23. pii: S0140-6736(18)31310-2.