No Safe Level of Alcohol Consumption: Another Compelling and Robust Confirmation
Even a little alcohol is harmful to your health, a major study reveals.
Myth: A daily glass of wine is good for your heart.
This common myth is under renewed scrutiny in a new study. Heart Specialist, Dr. Peter Landless and Research Professor of Sociology, Dr. Duane McBride, explain the research for us.
An important article on alcohol use was published on August 23, 2018, in The Lancet, a leading, prestigious scientific journal based in the UK. This landmark study integrates and appears to do some new data analysis on 694 data sources collected over a 26-year period from 195 locations around the globe.
This is the first global integrated metadata analysis that we have seen on alcohol use. The methodology is strong, and researchers improved the analysis others had done when they could use original data. Their conclusions are groundbreaking and should be definitive in world health.
Among the major findings are:
-Alcohol is a major factor in global mortality and disease burden and the highest risk factor for those aged 19-45.
-All-cause mortality was associated with any level of alcohol use
-Risk of many types of cancers increased with any level of alcohol use.
-The authors confirmed that there was no safe level of alcohol use. The level of alcohol intake that most reduces mortality risks is zero intakes.
-Any cardiac health benefits from low-level alcohol use are far outweighed by increased cancer risks and many specific types of cardiac risks.
-The authors note, “These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.” This has huge implications for policy and public health approaches that must be changed despite the vested interests of the massively profitable and influential alcohol industry.
This study confirms that for more than 150 years, the Adventist health message does a great deal to enhance the quality and length of life.
The number of voices in the scientific literature raising questions and caution regarding the widespread perception that moderate alcohol use is beneficial to health has achieved robust credibility. Although many papers and studies support the cardio-protective effect of alcohol (moderate drinking), this hypothesis is by no means definitive. Marchand et al emphasize the many problems of studies of alcohol use, include confounding; risk of abuse and dependence; methodological issues related to assessing dosing; level and duration of use over the life course; and non-representativeness of study populations in reaching this conclusion.1
There is also great concern about the diversity that exists among nondrinkers. Nondrinkers represent a very diverse group, adding to the confounding, and variation in this group needs to be studied. This latest meta-analysis of global data published in The Lancet confirms other commentaries on the limitations of the evidence for a beneficial effect for moderate alcohol consumption, concluding, “The evidence for the harmful effects of alcohol is undoubtedly stronger than the evidence for beneficial effects.”2
-Alcohol is a widely used commodity.
-It is the world’s third-largest risk factor for disease burden.
-Alcohol use places a burden on families, including a strong association with domestic violence.
-Alcohol use can be addictive.
-Alcohol use exacts high costs from society through associated crime and violence.
-Moderate alcohol use is reported in the literature to have a cardio-protective quality, but the purported health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption are not applicable across age, ethnic, and gender variations.
-Any apparent cardiac benefits are far outweighed by increases in cancer risks as well as specific types of cardiovascular risks such as strokes.
-The most vulnerable for alcohol-use consequences are those aged 19 to 45 years; it is mandatory to get the facts to youth and younger adults.
-Moderate drinking is associated with many documented negative health, behavioral, and spiritual effects.
-Alcohol is a known carcinogen, and no safe level of alcohol intake exists which is known that may avoid this dreaded health complication; it is now scientifically clear that the safe level of use is zero.
Taking into account the significant health risks related to alcohol use, there is no scientific basis for promoting its use for the sake of heart health. This is especially so when proven and safe interventions for heart disease prevention and rehabilitation are available, including exercise, a healthful diet, and non-addictive, tested medications where needed. We sometimes persist in trawling the shark-infested waters of the definite evidence showing the dangers of alcohol use in search of one sardine’s worth of positive, healthful evidence in favor of alcohol use.
Certain lifestyle choices and measures offer protection against the problems alcohol inevitably bring in its wake: informed choices; exercise; rest; healthful eating; fresh air; sunshine; pure water (within and without); trust in God; social support; a good dose of optimism; and of course, temperance. By definition, temperance encourages us to use wisely those things that are healthful and good and to dispense entirely with all things harmful.
So, should people who don’t drink alcohol start to use it? Based on the best scientific evidence, definitely not! Should those who currently drink alcohol quit? Based on the same evidence, unequivocally yes!
By: Peter N. Landless and Duane C. McBride
- Marchand, Alain, Andree Demers, Pierre Durand, and Marcel Simard, “The moderating effect of alcohol intake on the relationship between work strains and psychological distress.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol 64, no. 3 (2003), 419-427.
- Fekjaer, Hans Olav. “Alcohol—a universal preventive agent? A critical analysis.” Addiction 108, no. 12 (December 2013), 2051-2057.
Reprinted with permission by Adventist Review/Adventist World.