Danny Tyree, 3/23/2016 [Archive]

Sobering Study: Is Moderate Drinking Overrated?

Tyrades!By Danny Tyree

"Tell me, Hank, whyyyyyy do you drink...?"

In one of his signature songs, country music superstar Hank Williams, Jr. uses "family tradition" to answer that question; but for the past several years, lots of other people have answered "for my health."

Yes, several studies have trumpeted the benefits of moderate drinking. According to CBS News, those selling points may be exaggerated.

High-volume alcohol use remains harmful, but apparently moderate drinkers have no longevity advantage over non-drinkers.

Scientists at the University of Victoria's Center For Addiction Research in British Columbia, Canada analyzed 87 previous studies on alcohol and death from all causes and concluded that the results linking moderate drinking to longer life may be skewed because of "abstainer bias" (i.e. comparing moderate drinkers to non-drinkers often included people who don't consume alcohol due to other health issues, such as former drinkers who stopped because of poor health).

So-called "abstainer bias" leads to false conclusions. "Abstainer bias" lends behavioral support where none is warranted. "Abstainer bias" gives college kids a whole new phrase to listen for when taking alcohol shots.

The U of Victoria group would not go so far as to speculate why the previous researchers missed such a glaring error; but when the paper was presented to "The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs," a state trooper was on hand to intone, "Buzzed researching IS drunk researching."

Except for my father's elderberry wine (for croup) and my wife's grandfather's blackberry cordial (for digestive problems), I've never imbibed. But I'll admit that the prevailing medical wisdom of the past few years made me wonder if I was cheating myself. Who WOULDN'T like an extra year or two on their lifespan, to listen to feuding scientists deliver completely opposite "settled science" conclusions every other week? ("I can lick any scientist in the place — except the one on that pink elephant.")

As the new reality sinks in, relationships will change. The cocky moderate drinker who told his non-drinking neighbor, "I'll dance on your grave, you holier-than-thou, teetotaling &%$#@"? He now reassures his neighbor, "Oh, is THAT what you thought I said???? No, I asked if you could let me on your shuffleboard team at the assisted living facility, silly."

Many moderate drinkers are now realizing that the earlier studies that validated their imbibing were really wishful thinking. I have to wonder about some of the other wishful thinking papers that have been published in scientific journals over the years. The top three myths would surely include:

1. Filling your purse with restaurant condiments staves off carpal tunnel syndrome.

2. Double-dipping potato chips is a major preventer of hyperthyroidism.

3. Letting your dog secretly relieve himself in your neighbor's yard is the pituitary gland's best friend.

To be sure, some experts still say that moderate drinking has benefits related to blood pressure, stress reduction and improved cholesterol numbers. Brags one self-described moderate drinker, "Alcohol makes my blood platelets less sticky. But, oh, this bathroom floor is sticky. Baaaarrrrrffff!"

And sociologists still see the value of moderate drinking in the area of meeting strangers and achieving moderate pregnancy.

I'd love to write more about the long-term implications of the U of Victoria study, but all of Hank, Jr.'s rowdy (but resigned to reality) friends are coming over tonight. They just have to swing by the convenience market advertising "Coldest yoga/Pilates mats in town."

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© 2016 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades". Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.



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