Dr. Gifford-Jones

Good news for moderate drinkers this holiday season

Have I ever felt the need at Christmas for Prozac, sleeping pills, or the mass of over-the-counter medication?

The answer, a definitive no! But I always enjoy a relaxing pre-dinner drink at the end of the day. So I’m always looking for good news about the health benefits of moderate drinking. Recently, I found an unsuspected reason to continue the cocktail hour.

A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine claims that a drink a day aids in keeping pounds off. LU Wang, a Harvard researcher, studied 19,200 women age 39 and over whose body mass index was normal.

Wang reports that 38% of the women were teetotalers, 32.8% drank one-third of a five ounce glass of wine a day, 20% enjoyed either a 12 ounce bottle of beer or a five ounce glass of wine, 6% had two drinks and 3% more than two drinks daily.

Women who drank a little more than one alcoholic drink a day gained less weight than those who never touched alcohol. And women who drank one to two alcoholic drinks a day were the least likely to become overweight or obese.

Every study I’ve ever read has bad news for teetotalers. This report was no exception with abstainers gaining the most pounds in weight.

The bad news? On average, all women in the study gained weight progressively over the 13-year period. This finding shouldn’t surprise anyone in view of the current epidemic of obesity that’s causing such medical havoc. Today’s growing medical, social and economic crisis due to obesity rising year after year is a potential train wreck. In fact, it’s depressing enough to make me have another pre-dinner drink!

There are many “ifs, ands and buts” about this research. It’s another “association” that may or may not hold water. Remember, we all get up in the morning and the sun also rises in the morning.

That’s also an “association”, but it means nothing. So there’s about one chance in a trillion that this alcohol research will be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

So why waste my time, and maybe yours, writing about it? Because some weeks I’m so tired of reading bad news I can’t resist passing along a good news story, especially at Christmas for those who enjoy a relaxing drink with friends or a tension-relieving cocktail before dinner. Besides, who knows? There may be an ounce of scientific truth between moderate drinking and weight loss.

But sure as night follows day, I will be criticized by some readers when I write a positive column about the health benefits of alcohol. The theme is invariably the same. Don’t I realize that many social and family tragedies result from the excessive use of alcohol, needless deaths from drunken driving etc, etc.?

I’d have to be living on Mars if I weren’t aware of the abuse of alcohol. But are we going to stop selling cars because some idiots drive at 150 km an hour? Or stop selling food because millions are killing themselves by obesity?

Besides, as I survey the medical scene today I’m appalled at the pharmaceutical junk consumers are devouring. Pillitis has become such an everyday part of our society that it is causing havoc with livers and kidneys, unsuspected by most consumers. They would be healthier if they poured their pills down the drain.

Used in moderation, alcohol is still one of the best remedies. I like to remember Cardinal Richelieu’s remark, “If God forbade drinking would he have made wine so good?”

After all, Jesus did turn water into wine. Or as Sir William Osler remarked, “Alcohol is for the elderly what milk is for the young.” So I have no desire to disagree with these eminent authorities. Besides, it soon will be five o’clock.

Once again I’d like to wish readers a happy and healthy holiday. And please do not drink and drive, or take drugs and drive.

See the web site www.docgiff.com for daily medical tips and for more on the health benefits of alcohol. For comments info@docgiff.com.

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