Alcohol, Health & Statistics
A paper published recently on Nature’s open-access platform Scientific Reports linked regular but low alcohol intake in mice to a reduction of certain toxins in the brain.
Some newspapers, rather predictably, ran with variations of the ‘Drink Two Pints a Day to Boost Health’ headline, ignoring that the researchers themselves state that the study “should not be viewed as a recommendation for alcohol consumption guidelines in humans”. While there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that there are many and varied health benefits associated with a degree of alcoholic intake, it is both naive and reckless to take every new positive study as an excuse to drink.
On the flip side of the beer mat, there are published studies linking even low levels of alcohol intake to increased risks of certain forms of cancer and other detrimental health impacts; this often becomes the take-home message when these studies are picked up by the wider media. However, such scientific papers highlighting the negative impacts of alcohol consumption can also contain caveats and sometimes apparently contradictory findings.
For better or worse, much of science relies on statistics and, as a wise man once said, “Torture numbers and they will confess to anything”. What level of alcohol consumption is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ is for far more intelligent people than me to decide. However, whichever side of the divide you make your stand, cherry-picking individual studies or arguments which reinforce your viewpoint while ignoring contradictory evidence or information only causes harm.