It is not easy getting a handle on what a drink or more than a drink does for or to your health. In the UK, there is a lot of effort going into warning against binge drinking. This is one of the campaigns of the Portman Group, an association of UK drinks manufacturers. Medical research seems to have a bit of a difficult time balancing what is too much and what is enough, as evidenced by this report in the BBC recently, but the statistics are more than a bit alarming:
...around one or two units of alcohol a day, on five days a week, may have a beneficial effect on coronary heart disease. But the risk of dying from all alcohol-related causes doubled if you had 10 drinks on two nights a week rather than drinking around two units a day...Even then, the beneficial effect only appeared to apply to the over-40s. In the UK, women are advised not to drink more than two to three units of alcohol a day, and men three to four units. Recent government figures revealed that a fifth of men and one in 11 women were now binge-drinkers in England. For men this means drinking more than eight units of alcohol on at least one day in the week, and for women more than six units.What I can never seem to find out is what a "unit" is. I can't imagine, frankly, having four drinks each day as that would leave me worn out. Unless a unit is actually half a beer. This story seems to say a unit of beer for British purposes is 10 oz (@250 ml) of 3.5% ordinary beer. In Canada most beer is brewed to a 5% strength so we are talking 7 oz of Molson Golden as a unit, making a pint more like 3 units. The Journal of Studies on Alcohol has chosen a rather extreme definition of binge which requires the passing of days not just the third pint.
You also sometimes get the sense that there are cultural factors at play so that researchers from different countries begin the question from a point of view that a drink is good or bad. Consider this Czech brewer's claims as to the healthy properties of beer:
Beer contains bitter hop resins that make people calm and also contribute to the secretion of bile, thus positively influencing digestion. A calm and happy person enjoys his/her meal and digests better.Nice to be told that "beer is healthier than water" but other facts from other sources are a bit staggeringly contradictory, as when you read that 12 million Britons regularly use drink as a crutch.
I am not going to conclude anything that wraps this up neatly. There are too many interests behind the facts to expect such an outcome. We'll keep an eye on it.