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Ask Megan: Is a Daily Drink Healthy?

By Megan Tempest in Food on Dec 24, 2009 5:00PM

Dear Megan,

I’ve read that having one alcoholic drink a day is not unhealthy, and may even be good for you. Is this true?


What better time is there to answer this question than in the midst of the winter holidays? An occasional alcoholic beverage is probably not going to hurt you. However, to regard a drink as “health-promoting” is a stretch. New research has thrown a wrench in the theory that a daily drink is good for us.

A large population study conducted by British researchers suggests that moderate drinking may indeed be quite hazardous to our health. The study analyzed alcohol use in over 1.2 million middle-aged women over a 7 year time span, during which time 69,000 of the participants were diagnosed with cancer. The results, published early this year, linked alcohol consumption with increased risk for several types of cancer, including oral, pharynx, esophagus, larynx, and breast. Women in the study consumed an average of 1 drink per day. The degree of cancer risk increased with the number of drinks per day, regardless of whether the drink was beer, wine, or spirits.

A similar study by Canadian researchers analyzed moderate to high alcohol consumption in men, over a lifetime, and found increased risk for six different forms of cancer, including stomach, colon and prostate.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has declared that, despite some research suggesting heart-health benefits of drinking, “there is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe.”

With that in mind, if you are going to drink alcohol, follow the path of moderation. The Mayo Clinic defines moderation as two drinks per day for males 65 and under, and one drink a day for women and men over 65. A “drink” is defined as12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Now go enjoy the holidays!

* Hey folks, this is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of anything written on this website. Thanks!