To many outsiders, life at an American university or college seems to be about one thing: drinking. Movies like American Pie, Old School, and Animal House have help to paint a stereotype that the college experience is one filled with drunken debauchery and womanizing. After spending my summer at Penn State, I realized one of those stereotypes held true: College kids love their beer. Given Penn State’s propensity to consume copious amounts of beer, I took it upon myself to figure out if beer or other types of alcohol actually have any health benefits.
Binge drinking is a period of drinking in which one consumes enough alcohol to achieve a BAC of .08 or higher. This type of drinking has proven to be egregiously hazardous to one’s health. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one and six US adults binge drink over four times a month. Even more interesting, binge drinking is more common among people or house holds that make over $75000 a year (CDC). The CDC reports that binge drinking can cause liver disease, neurological issues, and various cardio vascular diseases. It is clear that drinking to the point of severe intoxication is harmful to one’s health. But what if one drinks in moderation?
Alcohol has been a staple of the human diet for thousands of years. Beer and wine in some places were often more safe to drink than the water itself, due to a lack of purification means. According to The Harvard School of Public Health, moderate alcohol consumption can carry with it some positive health benefits. In over 100 studies, moderate alcohol consumption, less than three drinks in a day, carried with it a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease. Aaron Carrol of The New York Times, wrote that in several long term studies of long term moderate drinkers juxtaposed against those who don’t drink, the former was less likely to die from heart disease than their counterparts.
Alcohol may have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, but for some diseases like cancer it has been shown to be harmful (New York Times). Carol remarked that some studies found that alcohol can be linked to certain types of cancer, in other studies the same finding was reported but mostly in those who regularly binge drink. Carol wrote than in a study done in England, a correlation was found between those who drink casually and mental function later in life. Whether or not these connections are casual is unknown. Many of the studies done on alcohol are definite, but a large portion are not. Many lack an understanding of the mechanism, which may not be necessary but is important for further research. Whether or not confounding variables can explain some of these correlations is always a matter of the the way the study was conducted.
Are beer and other types of alcohol friend or foe? It appears that there are some benefits in the long run, with sustained consumption, but overall it seems to do more harm than good. The problem with alcohol is that it lowers your inhibitions, so once you’ve had a good amount, you always want more. While this may not be true for everyone, it is for many; so next game day weekend drink safe, and above all don’t drink and drive.