Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Alcohol News of the Week

alcohol bottles
On drinking history, health, violence, disinhibition, families and the importance of liver holidays.

Do you recall your drinking history? Based upon this source, I would guess that your alcohol consumption has shown a marked peak when you reached legal drinking age. Are you a woman? The peak will be less pronounced than if you are a man. No surprise so far; new things, in general, are attractive for youngsters. After your first experience period with alcohol, maybe some weeks, months or years, your consumption is likely to have dropped in frequency as well as in quantity. And now, how old are you? As you grew older, I would guess that you drank more and more. If you had no dramatic episodes to cope with, this increase is likely to be gradual, steady and slow and will continue up to your retiring age. - For me, this history is more or less true, with some extra peaks and depressions. For instance, at business lunches, I have drunk red wine with my customers, collegues or publishers until I learned that my productivity in the afternoon dropped dramatically.

In old age, drinking patterns are closely related to health behaviour. Good health is linked to moderate drinking, poor health to no drinking at all, and smoking and eating too fat (in men) or a lower body mass index (in women) to excessive drinking. (This last connection sounds strange to me, but it's what has been found.)

Heavy drinking is linked to domestic violence, with marked differences between the sexes. The roles are clearly allocated: Did you ever hear of a man battered by his wife? A study about battered women shows that the more severely they are attacked, the more they drink to cope with their trauma. The study has not examined the men, but I guess they were also drunk when they battered their wives.

This brings me to the subject of disinhibition. It works both ways: If you are drunk, your inhibitions fade away; on the other hand, if your inhibitions are overridden in a sexual, euphoric or depressive situation, you are more likely to drink heavily, according to this study. Sexual disinhibition, will lead to heavy drinking episodes, but not to alcohol-related problems. Coping with stress will lead to alcohol-related problems. Euphoric social situations, interestingly, will lead to both heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems.

What is normal and what is heavy drinking? In families, this is not easily recognized, says this Dutch study: Parents as well as children underestimate the alcohol drinking of each other, in particular, the quantity.

Heavy drinking (more than 300 grams of alcohol or 30 standard drinks a week for a man) is likely to cause serious damage to your organism. Drink moderately and you'll have no problem with your health. Most heavy drinkers may be alcohol-dependent and will suffer when drinking less. But there is still a lot of good they can do: Take a liver-holiday. Heavy drinkers who abstain from alcohol for three days a week (not necessarily on consecutive days) stay as healthy as moderate drinkers, according to this Japanese study. Still, I do not recommend it. If you drink, do it moderately. It is better for your health, believe me. - (Picture by toomanybeers @ Flickr)

No comments: