Alcohol in the Diet

The new science-based Harvard Good Eating Pyramid recommends the moderate consumption of alcohol, except for those with good reasons not to drink.

The Food Pyramid developed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an effort to provide dietary information to the public in a highly simplified manner. However, the Department of Agriculture represents the economic interests of the producers of beef, sugar, poultry, eggs, pork and other agricultural products worth billions of dollars per year. These producers and their powerful trade groups exert enormous pressure on the USDA to recommend consumption of their products in the Food Pyramid.

Surprisingly, the Food Pyramid was not developed by any of the federal agencies whose purpose is to promote health or any of the agencies concerned with nutritional or medical issues.

Diet recommendations should be based on objective scientific medical research rather than the winners of competing economic self-interests. The USDA serves its masters well, but the public suffers. "At best, the USDA Pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic - what to eat. At worst, the misinformation contributes to overweight, poor health, and unnecessary early death." 1

Because of these inadequacies, doctors at the Harvard University School of Public and the Harvard School of Medicine have created a food pyramid based on scientific research findings rather than economics or politics.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid

The Harvard Good Eating Pyramid is based entirely on research evidence from the world-famous Physicians' Health Study, the Nurses' Health Study, and the Health Professions Follow-up Study - studies that carefully examined hundreds of thousands of people for over 20 years - plus numerous other medical surveys and studies involving many thousands more.

The Harvard Good Eating Pyramid and the scientific evidence supporting it are found in Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy by Dr. Walter C. Willett and colleagues at Harvard University.

Dr. Willett is widely considered to be the world's foremost authority on nutrition and has received many prestigious scientific awards. He is Chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and is also Professor in the Harvard School of Medicine.


Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy is published by Simon & Schuster and is available in virtually any bookstore. (This web site has no economic interest whatsoever in the sale of the book.)


  • 1. Willett, Walter C., with the assistance of others. Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Readings (Listing does not imply endorsement)

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  • Blackwelder, W. C., et al. Alcohol and mortality: The Honolulu Heart Study. American Journal of Medicine, 1980, 68(2), 164-169.
  • Camargo, C. A., et al. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in US male physicians. Archives of Internal Medicine, 1997, 157, 79-85.
  • Coate, D. Moderate drinking and coronary heart disease mortality: Evidence from NHANES I and NHANES II follow-up. American Journal of Public Health, 1993, 83(6), 888-890.
  • Doll, R., and Peto, R. Mortality in relation to consumption of alcohol: 13 years' observations on male British doctors. British Medical Journal, 1994, 309, 911-918.
  • Ellison, R. C. Does Moderate Alcohol Consumption Prolong Life? New York: American Council on Science and Health, 1993.
  • Farchi, G., et al. Alcohol and survival in the Italian rural cohorts of the Seven Countries Study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2000, 29, 667-671.
  • Ford, G. The Benefits of Moderate Drinking: Alcohol, Health and Society. San Francisco, California: Wine Appreciation Guild, 1988.
  • Fuchs, C. S., et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among women. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1995, 332(19), 1245-1250.
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  • Koppes, L., et al. Blood cholesterol levels of 32-year-old alcohol consumers are better than of nonconsumers. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 2000, 66(1), 163-167.
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  • Maskarinec, G., et al. Alcohol intake, body weight, and mortality in a multiethnic prospective cohort. Epidemiology, 1998, 9(6), 654-661.
  • Mukamal, K. J., et al. Prior alcohol consumption and mortality following acute myocardial infarction. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, (15), 1965-1970.
  • Power, C., et al. U-shaped relation for alcohol consumption and health in early adulthood and implications for mortality. The Lancet, 1998, 352, 9131.
  • Rodgers, H., et al. A case-control study of drinking habits past and present. Stroke, 1993, 24(10), 1471477.
  • Rossing, M. A., et al. Risk of papillary thyroid cancer in women in relation to smoking and alcohol consumption. Epidemiology, 2000, 11, 49-54.
  • Sacco, R. L., et al. The protective effect of moderate alcohol consumption on ischemic stroke. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999, 281, 53-60.
  • Simons, L. A., et al. Moderate alcohol intake is associated with survival in the elderly: the Dubbo Study. The Medical Journal of Australia, 2000, 172, 121-124.
  • Valmidrid, C. T., et al. Alcohol intake and the risk of coronary heart disease mortality in persons with older-onset diabetes mellitus. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999, 282(3), 239-246.
  • Vasse, R. M., et al. Associations between work stress, alcohol and sickness absence. Addiction, 1998, 93(2), 231-241.
  • Wei, M., et al. Alcohol intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in men. Diabetes Care, 23(1), 2000, 18-26.
  • Yuan, J-M., et al. Follow-up study of moderate alcohol intake and mortality among middle aged men in Shanghai, China. British Medical Journal, 1997, 314, 18-23.

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