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By John E. Russell



Some studies seem to suggest that people who drink one to two ounces of alcohol live longer than those who do not. Based on these studies, some physicians recommend moderate drinking. Dean Ornish, MD, in his book, DR. DEAN ORNISH'S PROGRAM FOR REVERSING HEART DISEASE allows up to two ounces of alcohol per day, but recommends abstinence based on seven scientific arguments. He explains:

First, subsequent, more careful analyses of the studies cited above revealed that many of the people who didn't drink at all chose not to drink because a number of them were in ill health or were recovering alcoholics. They did not die sooner due to an "alcoholic deficiency"; they died sooner because they were sicker to begin with.

Second, one reason why people who drink "moderately" may live longer is that they often have more social support than others who do not drink. In our culture, "Happy Hour" is a socially acceptable way to take a break from work and spend time relaxing with friends or spouses. I suspect that the same benefits would result from having social support in activities not centered around alcohol.

Third, alcohol has a direct, toxic effect on the muscle of the heart. Over time, this can cause the heart to beat less effectively, a condition known as an alcohol cardiomyopathy. And alcohol is toxic to a number of other organ systems, especially your liver. Heavy drinking is linked to cirrhosis, pancreatitis, fetal alcohol syndrome, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, and malnutrition. Drinking less than one drink per day has been found to double the risk of hemorrhagic stroke when compared with not drinking at all. A study of 87,526 female nurses found that women who consumed three to nine drinks per week had 3.7 times the risk of bleeding into their brains as nondrinkers.

Fourth, alcohol is a major factor in most accidents at work and at home. Somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of all fatal traffic accidents are alcohol related.

Fifth, although alcohol does raise your HDL ("good cholesterol"), this is only half the story. There are two types of HDL: HDL2 and HDL3. HDL2 helps to protect against coronary heart disease, but HDL3 does not. Alcohol raises HDL3.

Sixth, alcohol provides a lot of extra calories but no nutrition.

Seventh, a study of 7,188 women twenty-five to seventy-four years of age found that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with 50 to 100 percent elevation in the risk of breast cancer. [Dean Ornish, M.D., DR. DEAN ORNISH'S PROGRAM FOR REVERSING HEART DISEASE (New York: Random House, 1990), pp. 277-278].


Copyright © 1995-1997 by John E. Russell, Revised 1997
Internet Version Copyright © 1998 by John E. Russell