Study: Poring Cold Water On Your Beer (or Wine…) And Bingers?….Slow Down

While there have been conflicting reports over the years about how much alcohol someone could drink and maintain good health, a recent study pores cold water on that: No alcohol is good for you, it says.

That could be an eye-opener for a lot of people. At least one third of the people around the world drink alcohol at some time, for social events, or celebrations, or part of a dining experience, whether having beer or wine or liquor.

The latest study  in Lancet says there is growing evidence that people should not drink alcohol at all because it is unhealthy. Alcohol contributes to 2.8 million deaths a year worldwide, and is the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 in 2016, the study says.

The study contradicts previous reports, even touted by major U.S. organizations, in which public officials said moderate drinking, such as having two per day for men, or one for women, would be ok. Such advice is included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and supported by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.

What is the risk? 

For women, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week, according to the U.S. government. For men, it is defined as no more than four  drinks on any single day, and no more than 14 drinks per week.

The latest Lancet study about drinking not only upsets many habits but millions of dollars in industry.  The analysis included those of hundreds of studies about drinking from 1990 to 2016.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 86.4 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime: 70.1 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56 percent reported that they drank in the past month.

An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity, according to the  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 

Accidents and Disease

The deaths stem from alcohol-related cancer and cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, intentional injury such as violence and self-harm and traffic accidents and other unintentional injuries such as drowning and fires. Alcohol consumption is also associated with a variety of short and long term health risks, including motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual risk behaviors, high blood pressure and various cancers. The risk of harm increases as the amount of alcohol you drink, researchers say.

 Surprising Findings

Among the reports for years that said moderate drinking was OK, included studies that said alcohol could even protect against heart disease, but the latest study shows that it is outweighed by the problems it causes.

“The most surprising finding was that even small amounts of alcohol use contribute to health issues globally. We’re used to hearing that a drink or two a day is fine, but the evidence is evidence,” says senior study author Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Due to their population sizes, China, India and Russia led the world in total number of alcohol related deaths in men and women. The U.S. ranked fifth among men and seven among women on that list, the UK ranked 21st for men and ninth for women.

Binge Drinking

For too many people in the U.S., they don’t drink moderate amounts of alcohol, but simply drink too much. A separate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows increased health problems such as injuries, violence, liver diseases and cancer, are linked to “binge” drinking.

Binge drinking means having five or more drinks on an occasion for men, and four or more drinks on an occasion for women, during a two-hour period. CDC researchers found that one in six or 37 million people adults binge drink about once a week, consuming an average of seven drinks per binge.

In a March study, U.S adults consumed more than 17 billion binge drinks in 2015 or about 470 binge drinks per drinker, according to the CDC.

“This study shows that binge drinkers are consuming a huge number of drinks per year, greatly increasing their chances of harming themselves and others,” said Study coauthor Robert Brewer, MD, MSPH, lead researcher in CDCs alcohol program.

About two-thirds of people – 66.6 percent – age 12 and older reported in 2014 that they drank alcohol within the past 12 months, with 6.4 percent meeting the criteria for an alcohol use disorder, according to SAMSHA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – 2014.


 study published in JAMA Psychiatry this month found that the rate of alcohol use disorder, or “alcoholism,” rose by 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000s. That means one in eight American adults, or 12.7 percent of the U.S. population. — Joe Cantlupe


Wood, A, Kaptoge, Butterworth, et al. Risk threshold for alcohol consumption: combined analysis of individual -participant data for 599 912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies. The Lancet. 2018. Vol. 391. Issue 10129, P1513-1523, April 14, 2018. DOI: /10.1016/SO140-6736(1)30134-

Medicine Net. Alcohol Helps Kill 2.8 Million People Globally Each Year. Retrieved from:

Sandee LaMotte. CNN. 2018. No amount of alcohol is good for your overall health, global study says. Retrieved from:

Jamie Ducharme. Time. 2018. A New Study Says Any Amount of Drinking Is Bad for You. Here’s What Experts Say. Retrieved from:

Fact Sheets-Moderate Drinking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

CDC Newsroom: During binges, U.S. adults have 17 billion drinks a year. Retrieved from:

 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs. Retrieved from:

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from:

The National Academies of Sciences: “Unacceptable” Food Waste in U.S.

In millions of households, restaurants and other locations across the United States, food is discarded, lost or wasted.

Elsewhere in the country, about one in eight people struggle with hunger and simply want something to eat, even though the world is producing enough food.

The dichotomy is great. The National Academies of Sciences  states that more than one third of the food produced in the U.S. is unconsumed – an “unacceptable loss of food and nutrients” at a time of heightened global food demand. That one-third amount of food lost or wasted applies to the world as well.

There are fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers, seeds, meat and root crops wasted or lost. And that doesn’t just occur from kitchen to trash. The problem “extends throughout the supply chain, from the initial agricultural production to final household consumption,” and amounts to 1.3 billion tons a year, says Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Food Loss and Waste

There’s a difference between food loss and food waste. According to the FAO, bananas that fall off a truck, for instance, is considered food loss. But if a food is fit for human consumption but is not eaten, that’s waste.

Those food losses and waste are among the growing food challenges, never mind the obstacles to get food at all: weather, floods, and drought.

Looking to the Future

But the NAS is looking beyond the natural into the intellectual space: the need for greater advances that uses data sciences, technology, behavioral sciences, and economics, it says.

The NAS identifies what it calls the most promising scientific breakthroughs that are possible to achieve by 2030 that, it said, would increase U.S. food and agricultural industry’s sustainability, competitiveness and resilience.


NAS envisions and calls for scenarios in which soil and crop sensors could provide continuous data that feed and alert a farmer about moisture content not only for an area but for a specific group of plants, “eliminating the need” to irrigate an entire field. It foresees gene editing to accelerate breeding in microbes, plants and animals, or crops that could be effectively modified to improve taste and nutritional value.  Gene editing refers to a technique in which researchers can control traits of certain plants by removing some DNA.

The country, and the world, has no choice but to promptly re-examine and step up its innovations to maintain a food supply, as NAS sees it.

Need Changes

“In the coming decade, the stresses on the U.S. food agricultural enterprise won’t be solved by business as usual – either in the field or in our current research efforts,” said Susan Wessler, Neil and Rochelle Campbell Presidential Chair for Innovations in Science Education, and co-chair of the committee that conducted the study and wrote the recent report.

High Technology

The NAS says developing highly sensitive, field deployable sensors and biosensors will enable rapid detection and monitoring capabilities across various food and agricultural disciplines.

Applying integrated data sciences, software tools and system models will enable advanced analytics for managing the food and agricultural system, the NAS says. NAS officials call for establishing an initiative to exploit the use of genomics and precision breeding to genetically improve traits of agriculturally important organisms.

“Understanding the relevance of the microbiome to agriculture and harnessing the knowledge will improve crop production, transform feed efficiency and increase resilience to stress and disease,” the NAS says.  Microbiome refers to the micro-organisms in the living environment.

Through gene editing, and other techniques, steps can be made to thwart some of the food loss and waste.

“Incorporating essential micronutrients or other quality-related traits in crops through gene-editing tools offers an opportunity to increase food quality and shelf life, enhance nutrition and decrease food loss and food waste,” says NAS’s  pre-publication report. 

Current Gaps

While there have been advances in agriculture techniques and through technology, much more needs to be done, NAS says.

“The food and agricultural system collects an enormous amount of data, but has not had the right tools to use it effectively,” the report says. “Data generated in research laboratories and in the field have been maintained in an unconnected manner.”

Evolving sensing technology also is important and not quite where it should be right now, it says.  Sensing technology refers to the practice of using a device to measure different environmental elements, ranging from heat to motion to light.

“Sensing technology has been used widely in food and agriculture to provide point measurements for a characteristic of interest, such as temperature, but the ability to continuously monitor several characteristics at once is the key to understanding both what is happening in the target system and how it is occurring,” according to the report.

NAS recommends initiatives that should be created “to more effectively develop and employ sensing technologies across all areas of food and agriculture.”

The committee’s other co-chair, John Floros, president of New Mexico State University, said, “Realizing the vision this report recommends will require a holistic approach that combines scientific discovery, technological innovation and incentives to revolutionize the way we approach greater food security and human and environmental health.”

The group concedes that it may be necessary for significant public and private investment to accomplish the plans.

“The food system of tomorrow will depend on how well we are able to prepare for resiliency today and how well we are able to build our capacity for the future,” the report says. — Joe Cantlupe

(from my piece at HCPnow)