4

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Any good research on benefits of alcohol consumption?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 09, 2010 at 6:34 PM

I have seen some epidemiological research correlating moderate alchohol consumption with health. But epi studies are problematic. Some feel that many who drink zero alcohol do so because of attempts to control addiction or because of health problems or inability to process it. These kinds of variables are hard to control for and could skew statistics in favor of those who can drink alcohol safely but only drink a little bit, ie the moderate drinkers. This would explain why correlational studies show moderate drinkers to be healthiest on average. But if confounders are skewing the data, alcohol could actually have little or no health benefit as long as water supplies are decently safe (unlike in the past or in 3rd world countries where some water supplies are/were badly diseased). Does anyone have any more controlled data or research suggesting causal benefits of alcohol intake?

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 10, 2010
at 01:01 AM

Chris, oh yeah, I forgot about the part where they say that alcohol is anti inflammatory. This could be an obviously useful side effect especially for those who eat more inflammatory diets. But still begs the question, how good would it be for those who eat less inflammatory diets?

0dbd6cbb96871e07d062fea7e37b0a18

(120)

on November 10, 2010
at 12:50 AM

http://www.leangains.com/2010/07/truth-about-alcohol-fat-loss-and-muscle.html

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on November 09, 2010
at 11:39 PM

That's one of the tough things about looking into scientific research. Paleo eater don't have "normal" physiology. We are dealing with a different canvas than the typical soda drinking, bread eating Joe. It doesn't mean we disregard studies; we just need to think of them in proper prospective.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on November 09, 2010
at 11:02 PM

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2007/02/just_how_many_drinks_a_day_is.html

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 09, 2010
at 10:30 PM

From the article:"..trials in nondiabetic individuals showed that 2 drinks per day will significantly lower fasting insulin and postprandial insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity...The biologic mechanism whereby alcohol improves insulin sensitivity appears to involve suppression of fatty acid release from adipose tissue." Hm, sounds like it might be more beneficial for those who eat a lot of carbs or have metabolic syndrome as it apparently aids in glucose metabolism. Not sure if I personally want to "suppress fatty acid release from adipose tissue" though.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:27 PM

Yup, and it's hard to tell unless you read the blog carefully. One guy who seems to always always tell it like it is, without embellishment, is Peter at Hyperlipid.

6738ae1082ab735fc5fbd92baf7544d7

(200)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:23 PM

I agree with everything you have to say. My problem with blogs is most of them are speculative and lack any strong backing. That said, there are many fantastic blogs run by people who are well versed in their fields.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:03 PM

Oops, this was supposed to be a comment to the above post.

6738ae1082ab735fc5fbd92baf7544d7

(200)

on November 09, 2010
at 07:48 PM

I understand that there is still a significant amount of publication bias in the field of journal publication, but it's mostly focused on the pharmaceutical run studies. Studies that utilize public funds are generally published simply because even inconclusive studies that are published still boost lead to further funding. Even with the flaws inherent in the peer-reviewed journal publication system it is a far cry better than anecdotal evidence, the general media, blogs, and the pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo that health food marketers shove out of the door.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 07:28 PM

I would actually not take the journal factor rating into consideration. Publication bias from large medical journals is apparent in many areas, of which nutrition is a great example.

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6 Answers

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3
4bf2503c88d832cec003dd0fdf3f6dcd

on November 09, 2010
at 08:21 PM

This is a good review. 'Alcohol, a razor-thin double edged sword. Talks about difficulty of intentionally trying to balance risks vs benefits.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17825708

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930

(5242)

on November 09, 2010
at 11:39 PM

That's one of the tough things about looking into scientific research. Paleo eater don't have "normal" physiology. We are dealing with a different canvas than the typical soda drinking, bread eating Joe. It doesn't mean we disregard studies; we just need to think of them in proper prospective.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on November 09, 2010
at 10:30 PM

From the article:"..trials in nondiabetic individuals showed that 2 drinks per day will significantly lower fasting insulin and postprandial insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity...The biologic mechanism whereby alcohol improves insulin sensitivity appears to involve suppression of fatty acid release from adipose tissue." Hm, sounds like it might be more beneficial for those who eat a lot of carbs or have metabolic syndrome as it apparently aids in glucose metabolism. Not sure if I personally want to "suppress fatty acid release from adipose tissue" though.

3
2f653fa504adc81612619106e7d1f65e

on November 10, 2010
at 07:43 PM

All I know is that an occasional glass of wine or cocktail does wonders for my mental health. Before when doing grains and other nasty things I could not even tolerate a glass of wine...now the occasional wine compliments my life and my meal. I think this is a great example that this eating style works better with my metabolism.

3
0dbd6cbb96871e07d062fea7e37b0a18

on November 10, 2010
at 12:20 AM

Martin berkhan at leangains believes distilled alcohol in moderation helps with insulin resistance. He has an interesting write up on it.

0dbd6cbb96871e07d062fea7e37b0a18

(120)

on November 10, 2010
at 12:50 AM

http://www.leangains.com/2010/07/truth-about-alcohol-fat-loss-and-muscle.html

2
8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on November 09, 2010
at 10:42 PM

Stephan had a good post on this recently: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/05/does-red-wine-protect-cardiovascular.html

My comment to him was:

Stephan, thank you for this post. The "alcohol is healthy" nonsense has been more and more vocal of late. It's unbelievable how many studies I've seen over the last few years which conclude that "Alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of (x)". The two new ones last week (though certainly not the first for these ailments) were Diabetes and Alzheimer's. Name a common ailment and there's about a 98% chance you'll be able to find a study saying alcohol "may" help prevent it.

In addition to healthy user bias, I think there's a strong researcher bias here. Just about every adult I know drinks on a regular basis, and I'm sure the people conducting these studies are no different. People want alcohol to be heathly to justify their consumption of it. This, in addition to the fact that all of these pro-alcohol studies get attention by making the news, seems to be the perfect self-perpetuating combination.

1
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:02 PM

Journal impact factor is tough to gauge insofar as its impact on study findings. The highest impact journals (NEJM, JAMA, Lancet) would not publish many controversial nutrition topics. In fact, their bars for nutrition topics might be considered a bit arbitrary. This dude in my building used to be the NEJM editor-in-chief, and he got axed for hinting that the journal was trying to make some cash by expanding their offerings. It is a crazy, mixed up world, and because of that, study findings should maybe be examined on their own accords without regards for the journal impact factor. But yeah, journals are few notches above the general media! Blogs...it depends on which blogs :)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:27 PM

Yup, and it's hard to tell unless you read the blog carefully. One guy who seems to always always tell it like it is, without embellishment, is Peter at Hyperlipid.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:03 PM

Oops, this was supposed to be a comment to the above post.

6738ae1082ab735fc5fbd92baf7544d7

(200)

on November 09, 2010
at 08:23 PM

I agree with everything you have to say. My problem with blogs is most of them are speculative and lack any strong backing. That said, there are many fantastic blogs run by people who are well versed in their fields.

1
6738ae1082ab735fc5fbd92baf7544d7

on November 09, 2010
at 06:56 PM

Unfortunately, most of the studies that look into the health effects of stuff like alcohol and coffee are going to be epidemiological. It's just too expensive to design and perform a long term study under laboratory conditions. When studies like this come along, make sure you check them out on pubmed. If the research looks promising you can generally get the full text article at a University library which will give you more insight into the methods, and potential conflicts of interest.

I would also take the validity of the journal into consideration by checking out their Eigen Factor rating, and Article Influence rating.

Unfortunately, I have little in the form of actual medical articles relating to the subject. My current area of interest are related to sugar consumption, but I hope these tools help you find what you're looking for.

6738ae1082ab735fc5fbd92baf7544d7

(200)

on November 09, 2010
at 07:48 PM

I understand that there is still a significant amount of publication bias in the field of journal publication, but it's mostly focused on the pharmaceutical run studies. Studies that utilize public funds are generally published simply because even inconclusive studies that are published still boost lead to further funding. Even with the flaws inherent in the peer-reviewed journal publication system it is a far cry better than anecdotal evidence, the general media, blogs, and the pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo that health food marketers shove out of the door.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 09, 2010
at 07:28 PM

I would actually not take the journal factor rating into consideration. Publication bias from large medical journals is apparent in many areas, of which nutrition is a great example.

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