When I woke up today, I didn’t think I’d become a science denier before lunch. Then The Lancet dropped an article obliterating the notion that the occasional glass of wine is good for you and it’s forcing me to pick a side. What other choice is there? The report, which was funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was composed, in part, by mining approximately 700 data sources and 600 studies and is pretty emphatic in its message, hanging 2.8 million deaths on alcohol annually and suggesting control policies as a means of curbing the risk associated with consumption:
Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden and causes substantial health loss. We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero. These results suggest that alcohol control policies might need to be revised worldwide, refocusing on efforts to lower overall population-level consumption.
Such a buzz kill. But despite the alarm, is anyone going to listen?
First, everything comes with a bit of risk. Drive to work today? 3,300 people die every day in a car accident. How’s your diet? How’s your stress level? Look at Twitter. Now, how’s your stress level?
Life isn’t about eliminating risks, it’s about managing them and the idea that health problems and even death can be sparked by too much drinking isn’t really a shocker. Liver disease, heart disease, cancer, drunk driving, and self-harm due to dependency are long-discussed consequences that come with drinking. Granted, the news that alcohol may not spur any kind of real health benefit in moderation seems like a game changer, but in truth, those suggestions have had doubters for a while.
Ultimately, we’re all going to skim articles about these kinds of studies, weigh the risks, and make our own decisions. Then we’ll need to re-evaluate when the next study comes out and the one after that. Me, I’m going to weigh the quality of life bonus points that come from sharing a bottle of wine with friends over dinner and having a cocktail by the fire pit versus the risks associated. Then I’m going to shrug and live my life. Same as I do when I add an extra pat of butter to a sizzling steak or indulge in a bigger slice of pie.
To be 90 and to have lived a life free of booze, the occasional cigar, good food, wild sex, and risk — what’s the point?