Studies either pro- or anti-alcohol seem to churn out with alarming frequency, but this latest report may be the most terrifying of all. A new study started sweeping the news last Thursday, ruining everyone’s weekends, with the news that the only safe amount of alcohol is none at all. The heady study, titled “Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016” and published in The Lancet, concluded, “The level of alcohol consumption that minimized harm across health outcomes was zero standard drinks per week.” So zero drinks = good. Got it.
The comprehensive study looked at alcohol use and alcohol-attributable deaths for 195 locations from 1990 to 2016, using “694 data sources of individual and population-level alcohol consumption, along with 592 prospective and retrospective studies on the risk of alcohol use.”
Faced with this upsetting news, Time today tried to find some differing opinions. After all, Time points out, “For years, public health officials have said that, while no one should pick up drinking in search of better health, moderate drinking (defined as up to a drink per day for women and up to two per day for men) probably won’t hurt anyone who already imbibes, and may even confer some benefits.” But the new study maintains that even those benefits—a glass of red wine to ward off heart disease, for example—don’t outweigh the dangers involved related to addiction, accidents, and increased risk of some cancers.
Study co-author Emmanuela Gakidou, a professor of global health and health metrics sciences at the University Of Washington, maintains that “The evidence is adding up that no amount of drinking is safe… I don’t think we’re going out on a limb to say anything that the data do not support.” Time did find a naysayer in Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who states, “I think they went too far in this paper. There are risks and benefits, and I think it’s important to have the best information about all of those and come to some personal decisions, and engage one’s health care provider in that process as well.” We’d like to believe you, Mr. Willett, but this new report likely has many cocktail lovers straight-up shook.
Maybe it’s a good thing that #SoberSeptember is just around the corner. I’ve been looking back at my Dryuary month with some fondness (I know, at the time it was mostly whining), so am considering climbing onto that particular wagon (On the wagon? Off the wagon?) again. Who’s with me?