The WCTU Journal

Alcohol — No Good for Health

  In the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, Volume 70, 2003, Dr. Charles S. Lieber, well known for experimental research on alcohol and the liver, writes: Alcohol and Health: A drink a day won't keep the doctor away.1

  Dr. Lieber"s review of evidence to date for health benefits of moderate drinking concludes that there is no consistent evidence to prove that alcohol is good for health. He warns doctors not to advise patients to use alcohol to help the heart. The negative effects of alcohol are, he says, well established.

But ask the public: A poll: "Is alcohol good for health?”

“My doctor at the VA told me to drink some everyday for my heart. Monday I have beer, Tuesday, wine, Wednesday, whiskey and so on. No way do I want to give this up . . . .”

  “They say it’s good for the heart.”

 “I heard that some alcohol is good for the heart.”

“Alcohol helps you have a healthy heart.”

 “We’ve started using some wine—they say it helps you live longer.”

 “I read that even if you have diabetes, some alcohol is OK.”

 “I just don’t know. The newspaper today has an article saying it’s good to drink some.”

 “I’d say no. Still most of the articles I read say some is good for you. Years ago we were taught that alcohol hurt everything in the body. This seems to be new information . . .”

What is happening?

  The public today is under a media bombardment promoting alcohol drinking for health. Every few weeks articles about alcohol health benefits routinely appear on newscasts or in newspapers.

            Lauren Neergaard, Associated Press medical writer, in a Sept. 2004 article,2 counsels, “Drinking too much may cause serious problems, while drinking a little may help many people’s health.” Then she quotes Lorraine Gunzerath of the National Institute of Health (NIH) as saying that alcoholism is a major health problem and people with liver disease should not drink. But for people who do drink, two drinks for men a day and one for women is linked to longer life and is unlikely to harm—and men can go up to 4 drinks, women to 3. It is important to drink daily or every other day to raise the HDL (good cholesterol). A couple of drinks a day gives some protection from Type 2 Diabetes. Nursing mothers who want to drink should drink several hours before feeding the baby.

The articles impress upon the public that drinkers are more healthy than abstainers from alcohol.

“Let the buyer beware!”

  This age old warning fits the buying of alcohol itself. Alcohol, after all, is classified worldwide as an addictive narcotic drug.  Today however, “Buyer beware!” needs to be flashing in neon lights. Don’t buy into the mind boggling blitz of claims that alcohol makes the body healthy.

Doing what it takes to convince the world to drink alcohol

  Face it, the world is changing. Twisted truth, outright ignoring of facts, loud, repeated claims—do whatever you can to get your way—that is the basic philosophy reflected in today’s media. When the media reports a study showing alcohol drinking is healthy, it is time to read the original study.

  It is a documented fact that the alcohol industry has powerful influence worldwide over governments, research facilities, and public health organizations.3

  The industry and all who benefit  from it want profits.                                      

Dr. Lieber brings up publication bias.

  What is publication bias?Numerous research projects come up with sound facts. The facts are negative to alcohol. Publication bias means that, in general, the research that gets published and promoted for public attention is research that claims benefits from alcohol drinking.

About that HDL good for the heart . . .

  The press has continuously reported, “that scientific studies show alcohol raises the level of HDL (high density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol. That in turn lowers risk of coronary heart disease.”

Who were the patients researchers observed to get the “facts” about cholesterol? " These various observations were made in alcoholics with a relatively high intake of alcohol...." 4

  Dr. Lieber, "We all know that large amounts of alcohol have adverse effects not only on the liver, but on virtually all tissues of the body, including the cardiovascular system, and we agree that these high intakes will not protect against coronary heart disease.

  Dr. Lieber adds, “close scrutiny (of the studies on HDL) reveal weaknesses . . ." The studies yield  conflicting results. In clinical experiments alcohol has been found to increase HDL. But HDL is made up of subtypes, HDL2 and HDL3. The HDL subtype that increased may not be the one that is best for coronary protection.5 (see endnote)

"  . . .the challenge, says Dr. Lieber,  "remains greater than ever to define in any given individual whether moderate drinking is beneficial or not in terms of cardiovascular and other diseases.” In other words, it has yet to be proven that moderate drinking helps the heart in even one person.

Key points to consider for studies reporting alcohol benefits

1. “So far, the claims of health benefits from moderate drinking come from epidemiologic evidence,” says Dr. Lieber. What is epidemiologic evidence?

Epidemiologic studies investigate all the possible causes of a disease or epidemic. How does the researcher investigate? Mainly by “observing people” or having people fill out questionnaires or answer verbal questions. What people say is not always fact.

2. Some studies report benefits from so little alcohol that the most likely explanation of benefits is something else than alcohol in the lifestyle. For example, the Copenhagen heart study6said wine drinkers had a lower risk for coronary artery disease, but they also consumed twice as much fruit and vegetables.

3. The claim that one alcoholic drink (wine) is healthier than others is not proven.

4. What is moderate? Alcohol is a toxin. Each individual’s level of toleration is different. At the level of 1 drink (1 tablespoon of ethanol) the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says the  brain is affected.

5. Many epidemiological studies compare abstainers with moderate drinkers; the studies say the drinkers live longer. 

Who are they comparing? Abstainers in the studies include former alcoholics, people who smoke or have smoked, etc. The drinkers are often more affluent people who also can afford better food, vacations, and time for exercise.

6. There is absolutely no proof that alcohol drinking benefits the body. Every study reporting alcohol benefits should be checked out to see who is financing it.

7. The tremendous rash of studies in favor of alcohol being pushed in the news media today ignores earlier research on alcohol and also current research that shows alcohol hurts the body.

8. If a study reports a particular health benefit from alcohol for a particular part of the body remember a quote from Ira J. Goldberg, MD: “. . . substitution of one disease for another is not a medical advance.”

Is alcohol really helpful for diabetics? Or for the lungs ?

  When Wake Forest University School of Medicine included all the risk factors for alcohol like weight and body mass it was proven that alcohol does not benefit diabetics.

Wine drinking makes the lung liable to injury and increases the risk of allergic reactions.

Alcohol is a class “A” human carcinogen

  Victims of the hype about alcohol’s benefits should remember that in 2000, the US government declared alcoholic drinks to be class “A” human carcinogen along with arsenic and asbestos. One drink a day, says the British Medical Journal, can raise the risk of mouth, throat, and esophageal cancer.

  On April 19th, 2005 the U.S. government's Center for Disease Control warned that a few drinks a day may not protect against strokes and heart attacks after all. "The science around moderate drinking, "the CDC said, "is very murky."

God does not tell people to drink alcohol

God, referring to the human body, says man is fearfully and wonderfully made. Ps. 139:14.

Jesus said the body should be full of light, Matt. 6:22.

  The body is to be preserved blameless, I Thess. 5:23. At this present time, everyone living is “at home in the body,” II Cor. 5:6.

  God teaches His “made people” to do nothing to harm the body, including looking at fermented alcoholic drinks, Prov. 23:31,32.

God’s gift of the fruit of the vine

  In I Tim. 5:23, Paul advised Timothy to stop drinking water only and “use” a little medicine for his stomach’s sake. Timothy evidently was not drinking even grape juice.

  Paul called the medicine, wine. (The Greek  word oinos  means either grape juice or fermented wine.) Pliny (AD 24-79), and Athanaeus (AD 280), tell of an unfermented wine recommended for the stomach. Protropos, Pliny said, was must that flowed by itself out of the grapes.

  Joel 3:18, speaking about Israel and the return of the Lord, says the mountains shall drop down new wine. Today this prediction is being fulfilled as barren mountains are full of grape vines. The new wine, unfermented and sweet, is being bottled in wineries. Now, before the Lord returns, these wineries also make fermented wine, but God’s choice is new wine.

A logical conclusion . . .

  It’s no time to be intimidated by media data that regularly omits danger and promotes half-truths—lies. Most important of all is to know that God’s view on any subject is always right.


1. p. 945-953Dr. Leiber’s research on HDL cholesterol  in animals and humans, his research on medical disorders of alcoholism and his thorough evaluation of studies by other doctors leads him to say there are no known confirmed benefits of alcohol to the human body. 

2. Watertown Public Opinion, 9/23/04          

3. The Globe, Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, Is. 3, 2002          

4. Dr. Lieber

5. HDL2, supposed to help the heart and the more dense, HDL3. First studies said HDL2 was raised, the next study said that alcohol consumption raised both HDL 2 and HDL3, with a major change in HDL2.Taskinen M-R, Metabolism 1982:31: 1168-74

Then another study in conflict with the first studies, said alcohol increased both HDL2 and HDL3. Gaziano JM, N Engl J Med 1993; 329:1829-34.

Finally a new study showed moderate amounts of alcohol raised HDL3 and not HDL2. Hartung GH, JAMA 1983: 249:747-50 

6. Mortenson EL, Arch Intern Med 2001; 161:1844-48


Copyright 2005
Woman's Christian Temperance Union
of South Dakota