Henny Youngman once quipped that when he read about the evils of drinking, he gave up reading. But reading and drinking may mix badly in another sense. When you read the conflicting messages about the health benefits of moderate drinking, you may throw down your newspaper in exasperation. It has been about 10 years since the "French paradox" became a sensation: the observation of a low incidence of heart disease in France, despite a grande bouffe of foie gras and other fatty Gallic foods. Researchers suggested that this may be attributable to high wine consumption. And the theory brought renewed vigor to the debate about the benefits of moderate alcohol intake.
The bickering continues. The 60-plus studies that establish links between moderate drinking and reduced heart disease have led some experts to claim that the weight of evidence is enough for physicians--on a case-by-case basis--to advise some teetotalers to drink moderately. This is a departure from previous medical counsel, which ran along the lines of: if you don't drink, don't start. At a recent conference in Palo Alto, Calif., on the effects of alcohol on health, sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), Arthur L. Klatsky, a leading investigator on the epidemiology of alcohol, and physician colleague Roger Ecker presented an "algorithm" for helping physicians to advise patients.
This article was originally published with the title Votre Sant.