The Science of Alcohol Consumption

Is alcohol good for you? According to The Economist, the debate rages on:

Pro-oenological forces point to a large body of evidence demonstrating wine’s positive effect on both the cardiovascular system and longevity. This viewpoint was given additional support this week by a new study in mBio led by Ming-liang Chen and Man-tian Mi of the Third Military Medical University in China. Using mice, the team showed that resveratrol, a molecule found in grapes and berries, reduced the formation of plaques in arteries—a cardiovascular condition known as atherosclerosis that limits blood flow and can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

…But anti-alcohol advocates can claim a victory of their own in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Tim Stockwell of the University of Victoria in Canada and Tanya Chikritzhs of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University in Australia carried out a meta-analysis of 87 epidemiological investigations. They concluded that so-called moderate drinkers do not benefit from a reduction in mortality compared to abstainers. This finding strikes a blow at the very heart of the imbibers’ claim.

Why is the science of public health so fraught with mixed messages? The article concludes,

First, the statistically significant results reported in journals are often not biologically relevant, because a measurable outcome may be so small that it has no meaningful effect on patients. Second, animals are imperfect models for humans. Third, findings from the laboratory, for reasons not always fully understood, often do not translate to the field. The difficulty of reconciling multiple conflicting lines of evidence means the alcohol debate will rage on. Cheers!