Sunday, March 14, 2010

Scotch and Health

There is a great deal of conflicting information about consumption of alcohol and the effects on health. The wine industry in particular promotes the health effects of red wine, but if we learnt anything from tobacco companies and the health benefits of cigarettes we should be very skeptical. So what do the experts say?

Part of the difficulty here is that there are clear health risks with over consumption of alcohol. One study links alcohol to 1 in every 25 deaths worldwide and that 5% of years lived with disability are attributable to alcohol consumption. I have had close friends and family who have had horrible damage done to their lives from alcoholism, which these statistics and others highlight.

However used in moderation the general research consensus is there is a small amount of health benefit. According to the Mayo clinic moderate drinking is defined as two drinks a day if you're a male 65 and younger, or one drink a day if you're a female or a male 66 and older.

Moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits. It may:

- Reduce your risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and - intermittent claudication
- Reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack
- Possibly reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes
- Lower your risk of gallstones
- Possibly reduce your risk of diabetes

I personally have some concerns that smokier scotches which Islay specializes in might contain more carcinogens. I have not found any studies about this, but the people of Islay are not known to particularly short lives, so this probably is not a major effect.

The benefits to drinking are at best small. Few are suggesting starting to drink for these benefits. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that most people who are reading this blog do drink, so stopping is not going to happen. For some the 1-2 drink limit suggested by the Mayo clinic might seem restrictive, but I would suggest that this is probably a good guideline to live by.

For more information please check out the Wikipedia page at

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