Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
Alcohol BAD

OMG, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

Will someone kick these people with the sense boot. Why is it so hard for people to grasp that LIFE IS DANGEROUS. There is a good chance that you are going to die. Maybe, just maybe, sometime in the next 100 years the chance that you are going to die next week will effectively be made 0. Even if we completely conquer the life thing, death will still lurk in the shadows ready to pounce on idiots who demonstrate their ability to get into bad situations really well.

Re: Alcohol BAD

I was going to provide the link for this paper in Baxter's "drinking alcohol causes cancer" thread, but it is also pertinent to this older "Alcohol BAD" thread.


The paper is called European Code against cancer and scientific justification: third version (2003) and is written by the usual very long list of co-authors who seem to write these sort of papers.

The paper also includes a Figure 4 which is a graph of death rates of a sample of people (male UK doctorsin this case) against their alcohol consumption rate per week. This sort of graph is used as the basis for the 'safe drinking level' of something like 2 units of alcohol per day. The death rate actually drops for moderate drinkers relative to non-drinkers and then climbs up back to just above the non-drinker level.

So it looks like David Nutt (former UK drugs polcy adviser) in the Guardian article is refuting this sort of graph.

Re: Alcohol BAD

On this theme, one thing that tends not to be appreciated about alcohol is how important a historical role it has played in promoting human health standards. Up until the 20th Century people consumed alcoholic drinks partly because they were often regarded as safer to drink than the local water supply.

A few excerpts from a book available on the internet called "Wine in the past 7400 years":

"Another major issue was safe drinking water. Even today, whenever wars or natural disasters displace people into temporary camps, getting clean water is an immediate concern. Water becomes easily contaminated when a group of people settles for an extended period of time. Unless water is filtered, boiled or chemically treated, people are at risk of dysentery, cholera, and other water-born diseases. In Neolithic times, wine was used."

"The amount of alcohol in wine is high enough to kill many harmful bacteria, particularly in water. Maybe it was the availability of wine (and therefore, of safe drinking water) that allowed the first settlements to survive. In any case, mixing wine with water was of tremendous importance to the Ancients . For millennia, wine was always drunk mixed with water, sometimes even seawater, in water-to-wine ratios ranging from 2-to-1 to 5-to-2."

"In De Re Militari, Vegetius warned that armies must not use ‘bad or marshy water, for the drinking of bad water is like poison.’ And later, he writes ‘If a large group stays too long [...] in one camp, the water becomes corrupt.’ Similar advice persisted throughout history. Numerous armies were devastated by disease after running out of wine and being forced to drink contaminated water. Historians such as Lemmert have often emphasized the correlation between a poor vintage and the outbreak of disease. One example deals with the year 1602: ‘there was a severe winter, a cold April, a hailstorm in the summer. The wine was scarce and of poor quality. In this year, there was plague in the Palatinate, through Saxony and Prussia.’ "

This is incidentally the main reason I don't buy completely into the argument used by a number of AGW sceptics that the temperatures in Roman Britain must have been significantly higher than today because the Romans were growing vineyards all over Britain. They used wine in preference to local water supplies and the stuff they were drinking was likely to be very low quality wine not much different in taste from vinegar.

Re: Alcohol BAD

@Dave -- I love your angle.

It is a hard one to get the "other" side to embrace though. I try to get people to recognize that when the fan is corrupted by flying offal, I, as a person dedicated to the survival of my genes, won't wait 10 seconds before I fall 1 or 2 trees to chop into firewood to use to cook my food, water, and keep my family warm.

The ready availability of dense energy sources like coal, nuclear, and oil is what makes environmental idealism even remotely possible. Without that energy density, these environmentally concerned citizens would not have the time to ponder the environment except from the point of view of "how in the hockeysticks can I get my next meal and stay warm tomorrow?"

I have a batch of apple cider brewing in my house. I juiced all the apples in my yard this year. I marvel at how reasonable it tastes for my first effort at brewing. Then I wonder how important the "perfect" tasting cider really is. First it is alcohol which has its direct benefits to my sobriety. Second, it is likely quite safe to drink. When mixed with water the alcohol helps kill bugs in the water.