A new University of Greenwich study, published in the Journal of Pain, says two pints of beer is better for relieving pain than actual painkillers. Hallelujah! But it’s nothing new. News outlets report positive alcohol consumption research on a near-weekly basis.
None of the studies draw exactly the same conclusions—some define moderate drinking as one drink per day, while others say up to three drinks a day is healthy. What is a drinker (or non-drinker) to do? The only way to handle conflicting science is to justify your current drinking habit with a scientific study.
No matter how many drinks you consume, there’s a scientific justification out there waiting for you to grab and throw in a naysayer’s face. Like the following…
1. “I only drink wine”
I hate to disagree with Shakespeare, but there is nothing rotten in the state of Denmark. Danish inventors have brought us the planet’s best inventions including LEGO bricks and the brewer’s yeast used for the production of lager beer. The Danes are also responsible for the a multi-year study conducted among more than 13,000 men and women in Copenhagen which revealed that those who drank wine daily had a lower incidence of stroke than those who drank beer, hard alcohol, or no alcohol. The researchers concluded that the compounds in wine were partly responsible for the protective effect on the risk of stroke. So you wine drinkers can look down upon the barbarians that consume beer or vodka and raise a glass of the finest Pinot Noir to the Danes.
Xanthohumol, a type of flavonoid found in hops, has been shown to improve cognitive function in young mice.
2. “I have a few beers with my buddies.”
Time magazine reported on a study which suggested that abstaining from alcohol can actually shorten your life. The study followed individuals between the ages of 55 and 65 for 20 years and found that, after controlling for several variables, mortality rates were highest among the non-drinkers. One possible reason for the higher mortality rate of non-drinkers relates to social interactions. Moderate alcohol use often helps people be more social, which may in turn reduce depression. Now go out, have a few drinks with your friends, and toast to a long life.
3. “I have a drink or two with dinner.”
A 1999 study in the British Medical Journal confirms that consuming 1-3 drinks per day lowers the risk of coronary heart disease by about 25%. That’s pretty significant. But moderate drinkers can point to endorsements on the websites from American’s best hospitals. The Mayo Clinic’s website claims that moderate drinking will reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Johns Hopkins’s website cited studies indicating that moderate drinking can have a protective effect on memory. Congratulations, moderate drinkers. America’s finest hospitals believe in you! I’ll drink to that.
4. “I drink until I can’t remember how much I had to drink.”
Finding justifications for moderate drinking may be easy, but heavy drinkers have to be a bit more creative. No scientific study explicitly boasts the health benefit of heavy drinking. But do not despair. A recent study from the good folks at Oregon State University found that xanthohumol, a type of flavonoid found in hops, has been shown to improve cognitive function in young mice. We all know hops is used to make beer, so it stands to reason that beer may improve your cognitive function, right? Maybe. One of the scientists involved in the study warned that “a human would have to drink 2,000 liters of beer a day to reach the xanthohumol levels we used in this research.” If that’s good enough for you, run with it. Then have a beer. Or three. Who’s counting? Wanna fight about it?!
Would “Sober October” actually have health benefits?
5. “I don’t drink.”
Non-drinkers do not have to be science deniers. In fact, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania reveals that even light-to-moderate drinking provides no heart health benefits. The new research puts into question many other scientific studies that claim that moderate amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect on heart health. The UPenn research revealed that even among light-to-moderate drinkers, those who consumed 17 percent less alcohol per week saw an average of 10 percent reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and lower Body Mass Index. In short: you shouldn’t justify moderate drinking habits by claiming it’ll help prevent heart disease. This groundbreaking new study is perfect for the sober brothers among us. The tide may be shifting in their favor.
6. “I was wasted in December, but I’m giving up alcohol in January.”
Christmas and New Year’s are a time for great cheer. And lots of alcohol. It’s not surprising that many people pick January to give up alcohol for 30 days. “Dry January” or “Sober October” may be a great way to show your friends that you can indeed have fun without a drink, but does it have health benefits? A recent study from the London Medical School seems to say yes. Among those that gave up alcohol for five weeks, liver fat fell by 15 percent and blood glucose levels dropped by 16 percent on average. The abstainers also found that their sleep improved and ratings on concentration ability went up by 18 percent. While the study did not reveal if Dry January had any long-term benefits, it does show that giving up booze for even a short period of time can improve your health. Short-term abstainers, you now have your evidence. Use it to get your friends to join you for a month of sobriety so you won’t be the only one at the bar drinking a club soda.