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The Myth of Healthy Alcohol Consumption

A Negative Balance

For some years now it has been popular to identify light alcohol use, especially drinking of red wine, as a practice that promotes better health. Is there any truth to this or is it just a myth? To answer this question we need to take a comprehensive look into what is known about alcohol and its impact on health. Fortunately this has been done for us, and the conclusions arrived at by a thorough review of the data does not speak well of alcohol consumption.

 A Big Study

Researchers looked at alcohol use as it relates to burden of disease in 195 countries for the years 1990-2016. Here are some of their important findings:1

  1. Alcohol contributes to 2.8 million deaths each year
  2. Among people 15-49 years of age it is the most influential risk factor for premature death and disability
  3. Even minimal alcohol use is associated with loss of health

Here is a very powerful one sentence summary of the findings from this large study. “Our results show that the safest level of drinking is none.”1

It is true that light consumption of alcohol does have a minor positive impact on risk of ischemic heart disease and diabetes in women, but this advantage is more than offset by an increased risk of cancer, injuries, and communicable disease.

A Tasty Alternative

Many of the accolades attributed to red wine revolve around resveratrol. This compound does have very beneficial properties. It is found in the skin of red grapes. When wine is produced the skins of the grape are left in the vessels where the liquid is aged. This is why red wine is higher in resveratrol than grape juice. Grape juice is squeezed from the grape and the skin is discarded. One very simple and delicious way to consume all the resveratrol offered in the red grape is to simply eat the entire grape. Problem solved!


1 GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2018 Sep 22;392(10152):1015-1035. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2. Epub 2018 Aug 23. Erratum in: Lancet. 2018 Sep 29;392(10153):1116. Erratum in: Lancet. 2019 Jun 22;393(10190):e44. PMID: 30146330; PMCID: PMC6148333.


March 3, 2023

Written by

Nathan Hyde

Blog post featured image.

Alcohol contributes to 2.8 million deaths each year, and even minimal alcohol use is associated with loss of health.