Bet you can drink just one

Dating back to the discovery of the "French paradox," medical researchers have been reporting evidence of the health benefits of moderate drinking. For instance, an article on the Web site of the journal Nature told last week of a study linking moderate alcohol consumption to better cognitive function among elderly women. As in every other such article, though, expert opinion cautioned against interpreting the results to suggest that people who don’t drink should consider starting. To which one can’t help replying: Why on earth not?

If the people who drink moderately derive significant health benefits from doing so, isn’t it odd to discourage non-drinkers from even thinking about this possibility for themselves? Obviously, excessive drinking is bad for one’s health. Apart from former problem drinkers, though, people who don’t drink at all seem unlikely candidates for running off the rails altogether if they start having one a day for "medicinal purposes." Drinking does entail risks, and these aren’t to be dismissed lightly. But one could say the same of exercise. And yet, reports about the health benefits of exercise never seem to quote some fellow in a lab coat saying you’d better just lie prone on your couch all day, lest the appeal of physical activity lead you to death by over-exertion.

In their Hippocratic zeal to "do no harm," are the experts failing to give their best advice? Personally, I’d seek a second opinion before remaining a teetotaler.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver