For years, study after study has suggested moderate drinking — four or less drinks a day for men and three or less for women — has health benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol, preventing type 2 diabetes and strokes, to boosting immune systems.
In fact, according to a review of more than 100 prospective studies from the Harvard School of Public Health, moderate drinking can cut your risk of heart disease by up to 40 percent.
NPR cites one European study that found Europeans who drank zero to three glasses of wine daily had better cardiovascular health, but NPR points out that the study didn’t prove it was the wine that made the difference, and suggests it could be that people who drink moderately are healthier to begin with.
NPR’s Nancy Shute claims there haven’t been any randomized controlled trials to find out.
Now a new CDC study suggests more than eight drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men can pose a health risk.
To find out how the CDC came up with the study results, they talked with Lela McKnight-Eily, a health scientist at the CDC who is the lead author on the new study.
“It’s a daily average,” said McKnight-Eily. The average is based on population studies, which show that people who drink more than that have an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer and other health problems. “There’s no level that’s not at risk,” she said.
McKnight-Eily stresses that accepted definitions of “a drink” don’t always match the doctors’ measure. The feds measure a glass of wine as 5 ounces. “You could get two or three drinks in a standard wine glass and not be aware of it,” McKnight-Eily says.
And Shute adds that McKnight-Eily’s comment redirects the focus of the “What’s too much?” question from averages based on the public at large right where it should be, on a person’s individual risk.
“It depends on who you are,” McKnight-Eily says, noting that many people have health conditions that are made worse by alcohol. “That’s why we want [people] to have the conversation with their health providers.”
Individual risks aside, the CDC study claims more than eight drinks a week for women and 15 drinks a week for men can pose a health risk — that equates to more than one drink a day for women and two a day for men.
So according to this new CDC study, two drinks a day for men and one a day for women pose no health risks and may even be beneficial depending on the individual.
“One of the most consistent findings in recent nutrition research is that moderate alcohol consumption can improve health and lead to a longer life,” says Eric Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
It all depends on how “moderation” is defined — and my guess is 2 or less drinks a day.