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A pint of beer a day is good for you. Cool! Drink it quickly though, as another report may soon say otherwise

Charlie Stone
Charlie Stone

Charlie Stone is an author and journalist who has worked for the BBC, several national newspapers in the UK and international media.

Charlie Stone is an author and journalist who has worked for the BBC, several national newspapers in the UK and international media.

A pint of beer a day is good for you. Cool! Drink it quickly though, as another report may soon say otherwise
New research into alcohol consumption found that six pints a week has genuine health benefits for those with heart issues. Good news for those with a pacemaker en route to the pub, but the reverse could also be ‘true’ soon enough.

A pint a day keeps the doctor away, so they say. Awesome! That's the best news I've had in ages. Lockdown is pretty much over and the bars are open too. The first round is on me!

A new study reports that drinking a pint six days a week can help you out against having a heart attack or a stroke. This good news is for those folks with cardiovascular disease (CVD), instead of drinking themselves to death – they’re keeping themselves alive. And having a nice cold beer while they’re at it.

A team of beer-swilling experts at University College London say drinking up to 105 grams of alcohol per week can help save those with heart issues from waking up dead instead of with a hangover. That’s the same as 13 UK units of alcohol, which equates to a bottle and a bit of wine or slightly less than six pints of medium-strength beer.

It is the largest study of its kind so far, with data harvested from over 14,000 people.

“Our findings suggest that people with CVD may not need to stop drinking in order to prevent additional heart attacks, strokes or angina, but that they may wish to consider lowering their weekly alcohol intake,” said Chengyi Ding, one of the brains behind the study. “As alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing other illnesses, those with CVD who do not drink should not be encouraged to take up drinking.”

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Oh, that’s not as much fun then – the translation from science speak is: don’t take up drinking if you’re not a plonky already because it’ll cause you other problems. I also don’t actually have a heart problem and, fingers crossed, I’d really rather not have one – even if it does give me the green light for my beer habit.

For years it was kind of accepted amongst medical experts that a little bit of alcohol could have some benefits. Hold on a second though, before you slip out for one of those lovely six pints you’re allowed even with your heart problem.

Another study a few years ago pretty much gave the opposite advice, contradicting this new six pints a day tale. No amount of alcohol – zero ​​– was best, according to a global study of alcohol consumption and health. Alcohol was linked to almost three million deaths in 2016, the year of that study – including folk with dicky tickers. 

There are also the problems of getting into fights when you’re a bit the-worse-for-wear after a few too many ales and getting hurt that way (ie: by a big fist in the nose), plus the risk you’ll do something idiotic – like stagger in front of a fast-moving bus or down an open manhole. I knew a guy who broke both his legs trying to climb into his holiday apartment, smashed drunk, in Tenerife. He’d forgotten his keys – except he hadn’t, turned out they were in his back pocket. Oops. Alcohol can have funny effects.

“The most surprising finding was that even small amounts of alcohol use contribute to health loss globally,” said Emmanuela Gakidou, one of the boffins behind that particular story. “We're used to hearing that a drink or two a day is fine. But the evidence is the evidence.”

Oh dear.

This is the problem with a lot of these stories that make it into the mainstream media, they have a wonderful juicy headline…but they so often fall apart when you actually read the ‘small print’. The Daily Mail, in particular, adores these little yarns. Following a week’s worth of health advice from the paper could easily lead you to conclude that the secret to perfect health would be to become a teetotal vegan with a penchant for steak and red wine. For this reason, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales banned them from being a source for his online encyclopedia.

It’s not just the Mail though. There are stories all over the place. I read recently that aspirin is a magic cure for loads of things including cancers (oops, that was actually also in the Daily Mail). Swallowing an aspirin a day was the way to go for everyone, even if you didn’t have a headache. But then, errr no, I also read that aspirin is bad for you on NBC News. 

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Is a glass of red wine good for me, as I feel like I’ve been told for years? Dunno. It depends what you read, and when you read it. Coffee too, I thought for years, was bad for you – it could mess with your blood pressure and cause anxiety in the anxious. I drank it anyway, accepting it was bad for my brain. Turns out that, no, coffee is awesome! It can give you a wake-up kinda boost (d’uh! Everyone knows this anyway) and might help against diabetes.

Just like so many of these things, it depends on how much you take of a substance and your own personal make-up. Guitarist Keith Richards imbibed substances way beyond the limits of most mere mortals for decades, yet he’s 77 and about to go on tour again with the Rolling Stones.

So, man, you know what? I don’t give a damn. I like a big coffee in the morning and sometimes a pint of beer in the evening. I am happy to suffer the consequences as well as any benefits. And if you’re worried about any of this, go and check with your doctor. But they always seem to prescribe the avoidance of anything that might be slightly bad…yet enjoyable or fun. 

Or just live your life and be happy, to hell with it all: we are all gonna die one day, it may as well be with a beer in our hands.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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