Two studies published this month in the journal Gastroenterology suggest that people who drink wine, white or red, in moderation are less likely to develop conditions that may lead to esophageal adenocarcinoma, an uncommon cancer that has increased sharply in the United States over the past 30 years...
Okay, so a little wine is good for me. Of course.
Or is it?
From the Washington Post 10 days ago:
A new study involving nearly 1.3 million middle-aged British women -- the largest ever to examine alcohol and cancer in women -- found that just one glass of chardonnay, a single beer, or any other type of alcoholic drink per day increases the risk for a variety of cancers...
I'm not angry. I'm not out to blame scientists or journalists or health professionals. I'm genuinely, truly concerned that I don't understand what the hell is going on with all the alcohol talk. I honestly thought, after reading countless articles over the years about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the endless patter about red wine's antioxidants and ability to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, that a single drink a night was not only not bad for me, but actually good for me.
And for you, too, of course.
But the science is evolving so rapidly it's nearly impossible to keep up, and with so many contradictory studies I have no idea how we can intelligently parse the varied recommendations. No simple sound bite or sexy headline fits.
The American Heart Association, for one, is very clear on its website today that if you don't already consume alcohol, you shouldn't start. (Assuming your goal is heart health.) The bolding is theirs:
Given [the] risks, the American Heart Association cautions people NOT to start drinking... if they do not already drink alcohol. Consult your doctor on the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation.
The AHA also says:
No direct comparison trials have been done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
This last part surprised me. No studies have been done? I could have sworn I've been reading about these studies for years.
I rarely drank before moving to California, but everyone here drinks wine and I've started to, too, with some regularity. I always felt fine about it, assuming that in addition to enjoying the flavor with my food I was doing something beneficial for my body as well.
Given my own familial risk of cancer, and in light of this recent study, perhaps I need to rethink this assumption.
More from the Washington Post:
"Even among women who consumed as little as 10 grams of alcohol a day on average -- the equivalent of about one drink -- the risk for cancer of the breast, liver and rectum was elevated, the researchers found."
So ... do we safeguard our esophagus, or our heart? Mind our breasts, or our HDL?
Or ignore the information altogether and sip the Syrah?