How to Tell Which Study to Believe

Beer, Pouring, Glass, Drink, Alcohol

He short answer to the question posed in the name is attributed to Ben Franklin-“Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see” (or read).

First, recognize that study (could apply to some research) regarding the effects of Hays County Wildlife Removal, might be initiated and conducted with several degrees of bias. By way of instance, I recently noticed conflicting research data from two seemingly benign sources regarding the benefits, or lack of, in alcohol consumption. Both studies appeared in the Health section on the Newsmax site on August 24, 2018.

The lead article on the 24th had a headline:”No Safe Level of Alcohol”, another appeared on the 22nd:”Moderate Drinking May Protect Your Health”. With just the information implied by the names, what take-aways should the reader be left to contemplate?

What is the consumer to believe? For years I have been writing on conflicted studies relative to the benefits of drinking wine and alcohol generally. I find that the disparity in studies can have a deleterious effect on making reasoned decisions from information in such research. If you like consuming some alcoholic beverages, you are no doubt interested in the long-term effects. But, based on endless studies covering both sides of the issue, it is difficult to have much faith in any one research or even arrive at a fair conclusion.

Most benefits of wine consumption are based around cardiovascular benefits. A French scientist analyzed wine and grape seeds/skins for decades. He was widely released relative to the anti-oxidant benefits from wine, and grape seeds specifically. His decisions in the 80’s was that the benefits of wine, especially grape seed extracts, were remarkable relative to heart health, vascular system, and skin elasticity, to name a few. “In 1985, Jack Masquelier was able to further explain the intense and instantaneous positive effects that OPCs (an anti-oxidant compound in grape seeds/skin and wine) have on the human body when he found that OPCs neutralize free radicals, the frequent cause of degenerative conditions and early onset of age-associated changes within the body.”

The point being; seeds and skin of grapes have high concentrations of OPC’s and while drinking wine has some anti-oxidant values (derived primarily from resveratrol) most are found in grape skin and seeds. In fact, there are a few large wine producers (Gallo being one) also producing grape seed extract for the nutritional supplement industry. Also, resveratrol has been used in certain topical skin care skincare products.

I you do an on-line search for advantages of wine and wine by-products; the search returns are too numerous to count. Sufficed to say, people have been reporting on both benefits and harmful effects of alcohol for decades. But, can you rely on some of this research? Some is anecdotal, full of biases and predetermined targeted findings. It’s like chasing rainbows if one attempts to make healthy lifestyle changes based upon trusted and potent information. We are told to drink lots of water, but not to much; today, how is that forgetting trusted information? Alcohol consumption has been a fact of life long before Christ.

If past studies were based on science, why do their first conclusions change so quickly? He stipulated that study demonstrated that drinking coffee hardened arteries and has been harmful to kidneys. Today there are doctors that tout the anti-oxidant values of java and actually promote coffee consumption. What changed?

If one reads the headlines there are some issues that come to mind; largely about with how the study was conducted, and details presented. Maybe the data was badly aggregated. Just, how can we have confidence in using the data to determine if life-style changes are appropriate, especially if information is faulty? Maybe we just feel that the conflicting information from the public domain is not worth much consideration.

In addressing the much-reported benefits specific to wine, Griswold says,”despite recent study showing that light-to-moderate drinking reduces heart disease, the new study found that alcohol use is more likely than not to do damage.”

As with this study and most surveys, there are a whole lot of caveats associated with the findings. For example:

Age disparities and sizes of each group will impact results on precisely how significant alcohol consumption was to the findings. In one finding, researchers assumed alcohol played a part in deaths even if the deaths weren’t primarily or even tangentially associated with alcohol.
There are geographic disparities.
“In Asia, South Korean men took the lead, with 91 percent hitting the bottle at least once in a while.”
Gender will impact findings. Among women alcohol consumer, Danes ranked first (95 percent), followed by Norway (91 percent), Germany and Argentina (90 percent), and New Zealand (89 percent).
The largest drinkers identified geographically come in the Slavic countries-Ukraine, Romania, Belarus, etc.. Here we are talking about women and men who consume more than 4 units per day of alcohol; that is significant.

The top six killers of those who also have alcohol are: high blood pressure, smoking, low-birth weight and premature delivery, high blood sugar (diabetes), obesity and pollution. But aren’t those the same health culprits for people who do not consume alcoholic beverages? Griswold goes on to report,”a small beer, glass of wine or shot of spirits — daily, for instance, ups the odds of developing at least one of two dozen health problems by about half-a-percent.” The logic here is difficult to follow along with an unqualified conclusion!

In summary, the Griswold study features 2.8 million premature deaths globally each year to booze. But they don’t specify the caveats relative to what the”pre-mature” class is based upon. As I pointed out earlier, it is subjective when trying to account/factor-in for family health history, ethnicity, mix of beverages (beer, wine, spirits) seasonal issues, etc..

Just because we like the findings of a particular study on alcohol, doesn’t mean it’s a better study. Nevertheless, another study titled: Moderate Drinking May Protect Your Health by Health Day and released by Newsmax on August 22, 2018. This study included 35,000 British and French citizens over ten decades. However, where the French are involved in a study there should be thought to diets. Bear in mind another study from years ago brought into our lexicon the term”French Paradox”? At the moment, that study turned all previous studies on their collective heads. Even then some investigators found fault with the study.

In either study I’m address in this article, there are always variables. The following are a few factors that can make alcohol consumption studies, conducted several decades ago, irreverent:

People turning to better exercise habits in some areas of the world and not so in others.
Diets of less gluten, less sugar, more fiber, etc.. Again, this may impact study participants .
Improved support systems for older adults because of retirement incomes, families, etc..
Reduced stress; some of which can be credited to retirement.
Higher education degrees.
Better monitoring and understanding of family health history and adjusting to these variables in lifestyle changes.
Even the web makes information more available.
Changes in consumer preferences. There has been a change to craft beers and spirits over the past 7 years.
Relative to the center, it was found that consistent and moderate use of alcohol was crucial. Health Day reported,”People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol had a lower risk of heart disease than those who drinking amounts that ebbed and flowed over time.” (This statement isn’t consistent with the first study.) Consistent and moderate drinking has been the important element to receiving the benefits of alcohol consumption.

General findings of the Health Day study are summarized:

Consistent drinking appears to diminish cardiovascular disease.
Retirement appears to be a factor in growth alcohol intake over the moderate category.
In the long term,”non-drinkers” heart risks were most noted amongst women.
Consistent heavy drinkers had exhibited less cardiovascular events such as a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Eugenia Gianos, who directs women’s heart health at Lennox Hill Hospital in NY says,”the jury is still out about the impact of even moderate drinking on a individual’s overall health.” However, Dr. Cathy Grines who directs department of cardiology at North Shore University Hospital at NY says,”the protective effects of alcohol moved away if one didn’t drink the very same amounts regularly.” “Many of us believe that we are detoxing and helping ourselves by having periods of abstinence, but that (possibly ) is a false assumption.”

We now have diametrical opposing studies; should one be right and the other wrong? There seems to be even opposing views from within the medical community. These are from primary care professionals that read the same studies as we read and are passing along lifestyle change recommendations to patients based on selected studies; possibly faulty studies. In talking to cardiologist, I’ve found some say there are several benefit to wine and spirits.

A large part of these studies appears to be based on empirical information. However, this poses a problem:”If there are defects in the way that empirical data is gathered, the study will not be regarded as valid,” say Ana Bradford in Life Science, July 27, 2017. By reading both of these studies I have said, as laymen, we really aren’t equipped to understand any amount of validity in either study.

I found it interesting that on virtually the same day, two reports regarding effects of alcohol on health were printed; one purporting that alcohol is totally bad and the other discussions about the benefits of alcohol to the heart. Bottom-line, everyone should consumer research but always remember, all research has flaws and as Dr. Grines states, you will find”flukes” in data. I believe there is more research on wine and wine related products than research that definitively state’s”moderate wine or alcohol reduces natural life expectancy”!

We probably should not trust poll-based study as a tool to produce life-style changes without understanding the protocols used. The more variables there are in the control groups the more we should be prone to be skepticism.

Cheers!