Moderate alcohol consumption is good for your health. Unless it isn’t.


Booze news is often driven by scientific research purportedly demonstrating that moderate alcohol consumption is either good or bad for one’s health.

The other day I read about an ongoing study at the University of California Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) that was being characterized by multiple media outlets as pro-alcohol consumption because one of its published findings was: “People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained.”

UCI MIND is a center for research into ageing and dementia that, according to its mission statement, focuses on how best to “enhance the quality of life for older adults by researching genetic, clinical, and lifestyle factors that promote successful brain aging.” This ongoing UCI MIND study is known as “The 90+ Study” because it focuses on “the oldest-old, the fastest growing age group in the United States.”

Since, like so many of my contemporaries, I aspire to live healthily to the proverbial 120, without having to make dramatic lifestyle changes, such studies have tremendous appeal. As the 82-year-old celebrity chef Jacques Pépin invariably says as he adds yet more butter to some dish: “What, you want to die healthy?”

Then there was the NPR story about a global health study that that claims, as the headline puts it, “No Amount Of Alcohol Is Good For Your Health.” “While the study’s authors say that moderate drinking may safeguard people against heart disease,” NPR said, “they found that the potential to develop cancer and other diseases offsets these potential benefits, as do other risks of harm.”

It seems that for every pro-alcohol article that gets published, at least one anti-alcohol article gets published, too. The pro articles invariably speak to me more. More troubling than this tit for tat is when public policy professionals take sides, especially since they invariably side with the anti-alcohol crowd.

From 2008 to 2010, for example, the World Health Organization (WHO) was busy “drafting a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol,” to quote the WHO. “All 193 Member States of WHO reached consensus at the sixty-third session of the World Health Assembly,” held on May 2010, “on a global strategy to confront the harmful use of alcohol.” Several recent articles I read have even claimed that the WHO strategy is beginning to take hold, though the evidence seems thin.

Besides, public health professionals always seem to have something of a Puritan streak in them on such issues. As the great H.L. Mencken noted, the Puritanism of the alcohol Prohibitionists seemed driven by “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.”

No Puritan myself, I am enjoying a snoot of High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey (46 percent ABV; $65): This is an enticing blend of 6-year-old and 16-year-old rye whiskies, giving depth and vibrancy to this spicy, complex whiskey with aromas and flavors of cinnamon, fennel, licorice, something like mint, caramel, molasses, vanilla, cocoa and preserved fruits, all with a warming, piquant finish. L’chaim!

Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].

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