Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is Alcohol Good For You?

As mentioned in the LA Times Opinion column by Stanton Peele, dietary guidelines on alcohol are heartily debated every 5 years when new dietary guidelines are issued in the U.S. The easy part is, of course, espousing the evils of alcohol, including the hazards of heavy consumption, high calorie counts, and scant nutritional value.

The positives (and some would argue there are no positives) are more painstakingly contemplated and analyzed. The language, in fact, has gone back and forth from as recently as 1990. The 1990 guidelines warned against the consumption of any alcohol, noting the lack of health benefits and the risk of various health problems. In addition,
accidents and addiction were cited as specific warnings.

In the'95 guidelines, a much ballyhooed point about alcohol being used to 'enhance the enjoyment of meals' was added, causing abstinence groups to cry foul regarding the 'positive spin', while advocates relished the reference to alcohol enhancing meals in 'societies throughout history'.

This language was promptly removed in the 2000 guidelines and the language got tougher in the 2000 and 2005 editions. Jump to 2010 when the guidelines are due for a rewrite and the benefits of alcohol seem to pop up in newspaper articles and online reports almost weekly. Will boosts to longevity and cognitive function and defense against the likes of coronary disease, diabetes, and stroke make it in to the 2010 guidelines? The proposed benefits are being questioned and critics warn of a 'serious risk to the public'.

Stay tuned for the firestorm. To your health!

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