What do any of us know about drinking?
Someone in recovery likely knows more than they’d care to, but for most people, drinking is something done occasionally. A glass of wine with a good meal, a cocktail after work, beers with friends: This is the fun, moderate drinking most people engage in.
What’s more, drinking – moderate drinking, it must be stressed — is occasionally buoyed by positive news. Wine’s good for the heart; beer can benefit the immune system. It’s enough to make you wish you could toss one back at work … and forget to take a critical eye at the science behind such listicles and soft news pieces.
Take Parkinson’s disease as an example. Studies on a relationship between this degenerative neurological disorder and alcohol consumption have been done for years. On the surface, the answers seem fairly clean-cut. But a recent review of multiple Parkinson’s studies showed the reality is much less certain.
Last year, researchers in Australia and the United Kingdom reviewed 16 studies on the relationship between Parkinson’s disease and alcohol. The studies had to be published in peer-reviewed journals, include a control group of people without Parkinson’s, make a distinction between the frequency of drinking and the amount drunk and account for factors like age and smoking.
What the researchers found was little medical consensus on the subject, and little evidence of any kind of relationship, positive or otherwise, between drinking and Parkinson’s disease. The researchers discovered studies with weak associations had a greater risk of recall and selection biases. Additionally, studies that accurately measured alcohol consumption and Parkinson’s disease over periods of time only found nonsignificant relationships between drinking and the disease.
In the review, lead investigator Silvana Bettiol, Ph.D., of the University of Tasmania wrote, “This review determined several possible methodological weaknesses which could explain the varying and often conflicting results of studies reporting lifestyle exposures such as smoking, coffee/tea and alcohol consumption contributing to Parkinson’s disease risk.”
“This study highlights the need for more prospective studies investigating the relationship between alcohol and Parkinson’s disease of adequate sample size. Improvements to reporting of studies by investigators, particularly with respect to sample size and power, would help others interpret the epidemiological significance of any findings,” Bettiol wrote in the study’s conclusion.
It’s often easy to be swayed by science reporting. Facts and figures can be compelling, particularly if the data supports something people enjoy doing – like drinking. It’s important to remember the methodology that’s often behind new studies may be flawed, along with the reporting. Although there are some benefits to moderate drinking, the jury’s still out on much of the hard data.
The dangers of excessive alcohol use are well-known, however. Alcohol is still an addictive drug, and overuse can lead to tolerance and addiction. The Sovereign Health Group of Florida is staffed by experts in substance abuse disorders, including alcoholism. Our 24/7 helpline is staffed by compassionate treatment professionals who can answer any questions you or a loved one has about drug and alcohol abuse, or even recommend an effective treatment program. Please call us today.
Brian Moore is a staff writer and graphic designer for the Sovereign Health Group. A 20-year veteran of the newspaper industry, he writes articles and creates graphics across Sovereign’s portfolio of marketing and content products. Brian enjoys music, bicycling and playing the tuba, which’s he’s done with varying degrees of success for over 25 years. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author and designer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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