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America's Culture War: In the News

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In the News: Drink to your Health?

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Beverage alcohol. How many times have individuals been quick to point out the “positive effects” supposedly associated with “social drinking?” Yet, according to a new report, the negative aspects far outweigh any positive benefits. An article in the April 8, 2004 issue of Nature noted: “We pay too much attention to the health benefits of alcohol, and neglect the devastating effects of excessive consumption. Compared with the tobacco industry, the companies that provide us with wine, beer and spirits have a glowing reputation” (“Some Sobering...,” 2004, 428:587). The editorial went on to report:

One popular refrain for the drinks industry is that in moderation, alcohol can improve health....But you’re unlikely to have heard industry representatives explaining that the beneficial effects of moderate drinking are limited to a relatively small proportion of the population. Many of the rest of us, lulled into thinking that our “social” consumption of alcohol is good for us, are literally drinking ourselves to death (“Some Sobering...,” p. 587).

Helen Pearson laid bare the truth regarding beverage alcohol when she asserted:

“Alcohol and tobacco are the terrible twins of public health. Both increase the risk of cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Both are promoted aggressively by a powerful industry. And both can be horribly addictive” (2004, 428:598).

The truth, as Ms. Pearson admitted, is that: “According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the harm caused by alcohol nearly equals that from smoking” (p. 598, emp. added).

The powerful alcohol industry has been so successful at selling the “beneficial message” that many assumed alcohol not only was acceptable, but also improved health. “ ‘Plenty of people use this message [drinking in moderation] as an excuse to drink more alcohol,’ argues Ira Goldberg, professor of preventive medicine at Columbia University in New York” (Pearson, p. 599). Maybe now some of the media’s disproportionate attention will focus on the harmful effects of alcohol.

REFERENCES

Pearson, Helen (2004), “The Demon Drink,” Nature, 428:598-600, April 8.

“Some Sobering Thoughts” (2004), Nature, 428:587, April 8.




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