The Alcohol Industry Should Not Be Permitted to Advertise the Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking

Table of Contents: Further Reading
Reprinted from "Moderation and Drinking Don't Mix" San Diego Union-Tribune, April 22, 1998, by permission of the author.
About the author: Robert Zimmerman is a writer who specializes in alcohol and drug topics and is editor of the quarterly Prevention File.
Let's hear it for moderation! We're all for moderation, aren't we? Well, it depends.
Senator Strom Thurmond is proposing that the warning labels on alcoholic beverages be broadened to mention that even moderate consumption of alcohol may lead to alcoholism or can cause health problems such as hypertension and breast cancer.
His bill sends a shudder through the Napa Valley and the rest of the wine country. The vintners have been trying to convince the government that it would be all right to put a label on their bottles associating "moderate wine consumption" with good health. We can't have it both ways.
The Health Benefits of Alcohol Are Exaggerated
Research on alcohol and health appears to be moving faster than federal agencies can decide what to say about it. In 1991 a "60 Minutes" feature about the so-called French paradox fell like manna from heaven for the wine people. The French, it seems, eat the kind of fatty diet that clogs arteries. Yet the French have lower rates of heart disease than such a diet would suggest. Why? Because the French drink lots of wine. Scientists have confirmed that a glass or two of wine per day—or the equivalent amount of alcohol from any other source—can lower one's risk for heart trouble.
This evidence was compelling enough for the Public Health Service in 1995 to include a mention of it in its "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," being careful to point out that the benefit comes from a "moderate" amount of alcohol—one drink a day for women or two for men. The guidelines define a drink as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits.
But the Journal of the American Medical Association in February [1998] published new research indicating that a woman's risk of breast cancer begins to rise with one glass of wine per day and is fully 40 percent greater if she drinks from two to five glasses in a day. And the recent Bill Moyers PBS special on addiction summarized new research on how alcohol affects the brain in ways similar to illegal drugs and can lead to addiction. To their credit Moyers and the PBS producers did not go along with the effort by alcoholic beverage companies to keep beer, wine and whiskey from being identified with other addictive drugs.
Too Vague a Term
So what should the government say about "moderate" use of alcohol? Not only is alcohol dangerous for some people, but so is the word "moderate." Health professionals who screen patients for alcohol abuse are familiar with how slippery "moderation" can be, like the guy who describes himself as a moderate drinker because he only drinks one six-pack of beer every evening.
The federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention ran a test on how drinkers would interpret a reference to "moderate wine consumption" as it would appear on proposed wine labels. Most of the 400 people in the survey said they had read or heard news stories about the link between wine and reduced risk of heart disease, and some said they were drinking more wine as a result. But the majority said they don't usually read wine labels, and if they read one like the sample they doubt if it would change their drinking behavior.
What was most striking about the survey is what it revealed about the meaning of the term "moderate." It means whatever anyone wants it to mean. Moderate in the minds of those interviewed ranged from one or two drinks in a month, to a whole bottle of wine in an evening.
"The word 'moderate' when associated with drinking has virtually no meaning," the researchers concluded. "The more one drinks, the more drinking one thinks is moderate."
The average number of drinks per occasion that heavy drinkers thought was moderate was almost six—which is more than the generally accepted definition of "binge" drinking.
In the 1970s the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism launched a campaign to encourage "responsible" drinking. The program was quietly buried when it became obvious that no one could define exactly what "responsible" drinking amounted to. Is a message about "moderate" drinking any more likely to be understood? Apparently not.
Any Amount of Alcohol Is Dangerous for Some People
Wine bottles and other alcoholic beverage containers since 1989 have carried a government-mandated warning that women should not drink during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects, and that consumption of alcohol impairs one's ability to drive a car and operate machinery, and may cause health problems.
If Senator Thurmond wants to add a specific warning about alcoholism and breast cancer, fine. There needn't be a reference to "moderate" drinking because consuming any amount of alcohol is dangerous for some people, as the research shows.
And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which has jurisdiction over labels, should tell the wine people to forget about trying to capitalize on the French paradox.

Source 1: http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/retrieve.do?subjectParam=Locale%2528en%252C%252C%2529%253AFQE%253D%2528su%252CNone%252C32%2529%2522Drinking%2B%2528Alcoholic%2Bbeverages%2529%2522%2524&contentSet=GSRC&sort=Relevance&tabID=T010&sgCurrentPosition=0&subjectAction=DISPLAY_SUBJECTS&prodId=OVRC&searchId=R2&currentPosition=10&userGroupName=lom_mercyhs&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&sgHitCountType=None&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28SU%2CNone%2C32%29%22Drinking+%28Alcoholic+beverages%29%22%24&inPS=true&searchType=BasicSearchForm&displaySubject=&docId=EJ3010208227&docType=GSRC
This article talked about how dangerous naming an alcohol benefit could be. Research does show that a “moderate” amount of alcohol was good for you and would lower cholesterol. Having one glass of wine for women and 2 for men, or one beer or one shot was healthy. Some people took this “moderate” term too far and no one really knew what it meant. Some thought moderate meant 2 drinks in a month and some thought moderate was a bottle of wine a day. This shows that media can distort one’s thinking of the real fact. When you use a vague term like moderate, people don’t understand what it means and just see the words that alcohol is healthy, which it’s not as any amount of alcohol can be dangerous to anyone.

Frequent, Moderate Drinking Benefits Human Health

Table of Contents: Further Readings
"Study Finds Frequent Consumption of Alcohol Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Attack in Men," www.hsph.harvard.edu, January 8, 2003. Copyright © 2003 by Harvard School of Public Health. Reproduced by permission of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard School of Public Health.
According to a recent study, frequent, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages offers significant cardiovascular benefits, coauthors of the study argue in the following viewpoint. Men who drank one serving of an alcoholic beverage at least three times a week experienced the greatest reduction in risk of coronary disease. Further, the coauthors contend that alcohol's influence on the body is short-lived. Thus, infrequent drinking, while still beneficial, does not offer the greatest protection. The coauthors are from the Harvard School of Public Health, which is research-based and advances the public's health through learning, discovery, and communication.
As you read, consider the following questions:
  1. According to the editors, how long did the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) study last?
  2. What four features of alcohol use did the HSPH study assess?
  3. In addition to raising the level of HDL, what is alcohol's impact on the body, in the editors' opinion?
Daily or near-daily servings of beer, wine or spirits may help protect men from heart attacks, according to the results of a large, long-term study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The findings, which appear in the Jan. 9 [2003] issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, show that men who drank moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages three or more times a week had a risk of myocardial infarction 30 to 35 percent lower than nondrinkers.
The observational study, which tracked the drinking habits of nearly 40,000 men over a 12-year period, provides an important clue as to how alcohol helps guard against coronary heart disease, and for the first time, strongly suggests that routine consumption of alcoholic beverages is key.
"Even relatively modest amounts of alcohol may be protective if consumed frequently," said the study's first author, Kenneth Mukamal, MD, MPH, of BIDMC's Division of General Medicine and Primary Care and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Our results document that a pattern of regular consumption at least three to four days per week is associated with the lowest risk of heart attacks."
The researchers analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study based at HSPH. Subjects included a total of 38,077 male health professionals between the ages of 40 and 75. Beginning in 1986, the subject responded to a detailed questionnaire regarding diet, medical history and patterns of alcohol consumption. They then completed follow-up questionnaires every four years thereafter until 1998.
The researchers assessed four features of alcohol use: type of alcohol consumed (beer, liquor, red wine or white wine); the average amount of alcohol consumed; whether or not the beverage was consumed with a meal; and the number of days per week that alcohol was consumed. The authors documented 1,418 cases of both fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction among the study participants during the 12-year period.
Moderate, Frequent Drinking Offered the Most Protection
After adjusting for a number of factors—age, smoking, physical activity, parental history of heart disease, body-mass index, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, aspirin use and diet—the findings showed that alcohol consumption was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, regardless of the type of beverage, the quantity consumed per drinking day, whether or not it was consumed with meals or the type of coronary outcome. The variable that was consistently associated with the lowest risk was the number of times per week a participant drank alcoholic beverages.
After separating study subjects into categories based on whether they drank no alcoholic beverages, drank fewer than once or twice a week, drank three to four times a week, or drank five to seven times a week, the researchers found that the subjects in the categories of three-to-four or five-to-seven drinks per week had a 32 to 37 percent reduced risk of coronary heart disease, compared with abstainers.
The reasons behind these findings may be twofold, noted Mukamal. "In general, alcohol raises levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. But, in addition alcohol impacts the body's sensitivity to insulin, as well as platelet function and clotting factors." Through these additional effects, he said, alcohol may be improving how the body metabolizes blood sugar and helping to prevent the development of blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack.
"It seems that alcohol's influence on platelets and clotting is relatively short term," he added. "This could explain why frequent alcohol intake is of greatest benefit in helping to guard against coronary heart disease."
Eric Rimm, ScD, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and the study's senior author, added that this was one of the first studies to document a lower risk of heart attacks among men who increase their alcohol consumption over time. Study subjects who increased consumption by one drink per day during the 12 years of the study had a 22 percent lower risk of heart attack than men whose consumption patterns remained unchanged.
Mukamal cautioned that these findings cannot be generalized without reservation. "It's always tricky to offer individual advice based on observational studies of large numbers of people," he noted. "You need to take into account other considerations—for example, a person's family history, the risk of driving in an impaired state, the risk of developing liver problems—before deciding on the safest level of alcohol consumption for that individual. However, among men who drink alcohol, consuming one or two drinks a day three or more times a week may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."
Source 2: http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/retrieve.do?subjectParam=Locale%2528en%252C%252C%2529%253AFQE%253D%2528su%252CNone%252C32%2529%2522Drinking%2B%2528Alcoholic%2Bbeverages%2529%2522%2524&contentSet=GSRC&sort=Relevance&tabID=T010&sgCurrentPosition=0&subjectAction=DISPLAY_SUBJECTS&prodId=OVRC&searchId=R1&currentPosition=11&userGroupName=lom_mercyhs&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&sgHitCountType=None&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28SU%2CNone%2C32%29%22Drinking+%28Alcoholic+beverages%29%22%24&inPS=true&searchType=BasicSearchForm&displaySubject=&docId=EJ3010217237&docType=GSRC
This article says that drinking a few glasses of wine, beer, or spirits may lower the risk of developing coronary heart disease and heart attacks. The alcohol “impacts the body's sensitivity to insulin, as well as platelet function and clotting factors”. Drinking frequently is more effective because that alcohol will wear off as it is short-term. In this way, each time it wears off, you can drink again which is the greatest benefit in helping to fight against this coronary disease. This article strongly stresses that routine consumption of any form of alcoholic beverage is healthy.


This excerpt is from the Catholic Catechism: “The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air” (2290).
Source: the book Catechism of the Catholic Church
This excerpt explains that we should abstain from any form of alcohol because it could hurt others and ourselves. In the virtue of temperance, it tells us to avoid this. Alcohol abuse could also make us feel guilty or be dangerous if we drink with speed known as binge drinking. Alcohol could endanger us on the road, at sea, or in the air.


Zimmerman, Robert. "The Alcohol Industry Should Not Be Permitted to Advertise the Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking." Current Controversies: Alcoholism. Ed. James D. Torr. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Mercy High School Media Center. 4 Dec. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010208227&source=gale&srcprod=OVRC&userGroupName=lom_mercyhs&version=1.0>.

Harvard School of Public Health. "Frequent, Moderate Drinking Benefits Human Health." Opposing Viewpoints: Alcohol. Ed. Karen F. Balkin. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Mercy High School Media Center. 4 Dec. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010217237&source=gale&srcprod=OVRC&userGroupName=lom_mercyhs&version=1.0>.\

The Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1994.


I interviewed my sister Andrea and her friend Laura who are both 26.

1. What does drinking mean to you?

Andrea: consuming alcohol.

Laura: Any form of consumption of alcohol.

2. Do you feel drinking is abused by some people? If so, what types of people?

Andrea: Yes. Drinking is abused by alcoholics and people who are depressed.

Laura: Yes. Drinking is abused by alcoholics and people who are upset and want to feel better about a situation or about themselves.

3. How would you describe binge drinking?

Andrea: Drinking in excess.

Laura: Drinking a lot at once.

4. Do you think binge drinking is the most common form of drinking?

Andrea: No. I think social drinking is the most common form.

Laura: Yes.

5. Do you think 21 is the appropriate age for drinking?

Andrea: No. I think 18 is the appropriate age for drinking because people would not get so out of control at 21 if they had experienced it earlier.

Laura: Yes.

6. How much alcohol do you think your liver can handle per hour?

Andrea: 24 oz of beer.

Laura: 3 drinks; 12 oz of beer, 4 oz of wine and 1 ½ shot of liquor.

7. Do you believe drinking affects your health in a positive or negative way? Explain.

Andrea: A glass of red wine a week would have a positive effect; binge drinking on a regular basis would be negative.

Laura: Positive; it kills off weak brain cells.

8. Do you think underage drinking is a serious problem? Why or why not.

Andrea: Yes. Younger people may not know how alcohol affects them and get more out of control than a responsible adult.

Laura: Not unless they are driving.

9. What would you do if you saw a minor purchasing or drinking alcohol?

Andrea: Nothing. The person selling alcohol is responsible for checking their ID.

Laura: Blackmail them.

10. Do you think you drank more alcohol in college or now? Why might that be? Do you think other people would feel the same?

Andrea: College. It was new and everyone else drank. Yes I think other people would feel the same.

Laura: In college. There was lots of free time and no driving. I don’t know if other people would feel the same.

- i first interviewed my brother who is a freshman in college at the university of dayton. The intent was to get an average college
student's view on drinking and how drinking is incorporated into the atmosphere of college life.

1.What is the common view on drinking in college?
The common view on drinking in college is it is ok. No one really thinks its a big deal.

2.Does your R.A. or any campus security do anything to prevent drinking?
Yes, my RA can walk into rooms to check for alcohol, and the campus security (the police), can arrest you if your being a complete idiot, or just write you up for drinking underage.
3.Do most students drink till they pass out?
No. Rarely do you find people who drink till they pass out. Its a common misconception.
4.Why is it so easy for underage drinking to occur?
Its extremely easy to drink underage for a few reasons. First of all, frats, sororities, and sports teams have parties all the time at their houses, and its not like they are going to regulate who is in their house. So people who are underage just walk in to the house and grab beer or whatever. Secondly, alumni who come back to the university often buy beer for a house they used to live at or for a team they used to play for, even if the people who are at the house or live in hte house are underage. Finally, the bars around campus don't care THAT much about who comes in and out, and who drinks while they are there. So often on the weekends people who have fake id's or just friends who are underage can get into random bars and drink.
5.Are police ever, and if so, often involved in underage drinking issues on campus? Yes, they can be called to a freshman dorm, or sophomore dorm to break up fights generated by alcohol, or to bust certain parties. I see the police very often talking to people, or even arresting certain people.
6.What type of alcohol is most commonly consumed? Most guys drink beer, and most girls drink flavored vodka.
7.Are there many students who don’t drink? More than I thought, but still I'd say the overwhelming majority of people in college drink
8.Does the drinking go on at all times, or just on weekends?
Some people are so stupid, they drink during the week, but most people get work done during the week, and drink on the weekends. But in college the weekend starts on thursday, and a random fact about dayton is 33% of the students drink on thursday, friday, and saturday.
9.Does administration choose to just overlook minors drinking?
Not really, like the administration knows that minors are drinking, and they will inforce punishment if you are acting completely inappropriate, or if you are blatently drunk, but if you are just hanging out talking on a porch or in a house, or even sometimes in your dorm room, the administration wont approach you and write you up.
10. Is alcohol poisoning a common occurrence?
Not not at all, I think of the thirty two guys on my floor, only one has gotten alcohol poisoning so far on one occasion..

  • Then i interviewed my mom to gain an adult as well as a parent's point of view on drinking.
  • 1. Was drinking common when you were in high school?
  • yeah it was common. when i was in high school the legal age to drink was 18.
  • 2. Looking back, do you feel you made responsible choices when alcohol was involved? why or why not?
    Not always, sometimes i had too much to drink which lead to anger and poor decisions
3. what did you try to teach your children about drinking?

  • that they best not do it until they are 21 years of age because the choices they make can follow them for the rest of their lives
4. do you think underage drinking has risen since you were in high school?

  • yes.
5. what is your main concern involving alcohol?

  • that my children could make bad decisions and end up hurt
6. would you be in support of lowering the drinking age to 18?

  • never, no, been there done that.
7. In your opinion, what is the most common form of drinking?

  • social drinking.
8. As an adult, has your view of alcohol changed from when you were in high school or college?

  • well yes. i like to think i have a matured attitude towards alcohol and it isn't so much about parties.
9. In your opinion what is the best way to handle a drunk friend or person around you?

  • make sure they dont hurt themselves by driving.
10. How is alcohol involved in your life now in comparison to its involvement in your life 30 years ago?

  • it is much more controlled.