Alcohol – The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

First there was Dry January, then Stoptober began setting its sights on drinking as well as smoking – it seems that these days there’s no end to the amount of inventive new buzzwords and trendy campaigns designed to make us think twice about the amount of alcohol we’re drinking. The UK’s alcohol consumption has in fact fallen by about 18% since 2004, [1] but should we all be foregoing that end-of-week pint and washing down dinner with water instead of wine, or is the truth a little less clear cut?

‘Put the glass down!’ – the Case Against Alcohol
Despite the overall decline in the amount of alcohol the UK is getting through in any given week, people in the UK continue to like a drink or two – and sometimes considerably more. The recommended alcohol limit for men in the UK is 14 units per week – figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that 2.5 million people have admitted to surpassing that limit on a single day of heavy drinking. [1]

As anyone who has ever woken up with their eyes ringing and a pain behind their ears will know, alcohol can have a pretty serious effect on the human body. Excessive consumption has a detrimental effect on major organs ranging from the heart to the nervous system, and has been linked to at least 13,000 cancer cases every year, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. [2]

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has also warned of the link between alcohol and lower testosterone levels and sperm counts in men. [3]

‘Oh, go on then.’ – the Case for Alcohol
However, the case for abstinence isn’t clear cut, with two recent sets of research supporting a more complex portrait of the relationship between our drinking habits and our health.

A joint study by the University of Cambridge and UCL found that drinking within the recommended units limit could help to protect the heart from certain ailments [4] by improving the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Similarly, a study from the US found that moderate regular consumption among older adults increased the chances of reaching 85 without developing cognitive impairments.[5]

The researchers behind the report were keen to stress that the findings do not necessarily mean that the drinking itself preserves cognitive function – instead they have suggested that the moderate, regular alcohol intake of their predominantly middle-class demographic was linked to a more affluent and healthier lifestyle.

In both studies, the key word would appear to be ‘moderation’. Any benefits come from drinking within the recommended limits – a significant number of the health risks of alcohol, as well as the £3.5 billion it costs the NHS each year,[6] are connected to the excesses of binge drinking, or long-term, chronic consumption and addiction. If there is a problem with our culture as a whole it’s not the number of people drinking alcohol, but the number of people who are drinking too much. It would seem that there’s no reason to feel guilty about pouring yourself a glass or two from time to time, but, as they say in the adverts – do drink responsibly!

The Wellman Clinic is the UK’s first dedicated private men’s health clinic in London, with over 25 years of experience. From health screening to testosterone replacement therapy, we offer tailored, professional medical advice to men in a friendly and confidential environment. Please get in touch to arrange a consultation.

[1] https://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/alcohol-statistics

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15114325

[3] https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/fertility-and-pregnancy/is-alcohol-harming-your-fertility/

[4] http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.j909

[5] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170801131212.htm

[6] http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/adult-alcohol-statistics-2013-14-commentary.pdf

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