Saturday, January 11, 2003


I'm sure most have seen news of the study affirming that moderate, daily drinking significantly decreases the risk of heart attacks in men. (Worth noting however, the effect of even light drinking on women: "Studies have also found that women who have two or more drinks a day are 41 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not drink.")

Surely this is proof, one might say, that there's nothing 'wrong' with such drinking. Isn't this an obvious equivalence to Paul's instruction to Timothy to have a little wine for his stomach's sake and his 'frequent ailments' (i.e., for health reasons--1 Timothy 5:23). Perhaps. I think one gets on thin ice pretty fast when he argues that consumption of any alcohol is wrong per se. That being said, as Paul writes 'all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable' (1 Cor. 10:23) Drinking in Biblical times was very different from modern drinking. Our wines and spirits (especially hard liquors) are many times more potent than theirs. Drinking wine 'straight' in ancient times was virtually unheard of. It was almost always diluted with water, sometimes as much as 20:1. Wine was used to flavor water and as a sanitizing agent in a society that had to worry about potable water.

And modern doctors don't even prescribe starting drinking to prevent heart attacks. The other risks are too great:
“I don’t think any doctor would advise a patient to start drinking to prevent heart disease,” said Dr. Gary Francis, director of the coronary intensive care unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Although they're not entirely sure why alcohol seems to reduce heart attack risk, they do have some notion:
Mukamal speculated that regular, moderate drinking is beneficial because it helps keep the blood thinned.
“We think it may be much like people take aspirin every day or every other day. A little bit of alcohol on a regular basis helps keep the platelets from becoming sticky and prevents heart attacks,” he said.

So despite the hype, drinking has about the same benefit as taking a daily aspirin. Few homes have ever been destroyed or car accidents caused by someone taking a Bayer.

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