Healthy Drinking

The Science of Healthy Drinking by Gene Ford carefully analyzes the medical research evidence about the effects of drinking on human health and disease.

Some of the books findings are listed here alphabetically. The numbers in parentheses refer to chapters in Healthy Drinking.

Acute Hospitalization (19)

Acute hospitalization refers to unscheduled visits to hospitals or emergency rooms. Research has discovered that moderate alcohol consumption dramatically lowers the risk of acute hospitalization.

  • Moderate drinkers have dramatically fewer acute hospital visits than abstainers or abusers
  • Some studies find that moderate drinkers have half the hospitalizations of abstainers and
  • Moderate drinking is associated with substantially lower hospitalization costs to society

Aging and Alzheimer's Disease (10)

Some research suggests that light drinking may may delay dementia, loss of cognition and Alzheimer's Disease. Medical research indicates that light or moderate drinking

  • Protects against cerebral lesions
  • May delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease for as long as three years
  • Is associated with slightly better cognitive (thinking) skills and
  • Is associated with an 80% decrease in frequency of dementia

All-Age Cognition (11)

Good cognition or normal reasoning faculties are important throughout life. Research has found that

  • One to four drinks a day favors cognitive functions
  • Moderate alcohol consumption increase happiness, euphoria, and carefree feelings, and
  • Moderate consumption reduces the risk of poor congitive performance

Angina Pectoris (1)

Alcohol and other components in alcohol beverages reduce the pain of angina and reduce the risk of heart attack. Moderate drinking has clear benefits, including

  • Reducing both angina pain and heart attacks
  • The reduction of vascular disease by one-third
  • Reducing total mortality
  • Lowering dangerous LDL cholesterol levels and
  • Producing serenity

Atherosclerosis (2)

The ability of moderate drinking to lessen the incidence of clogged arteries has been well known for at least 50 years.Medical research has demonstrated other important facts.

  • Atherosclerotic build-up begins in childhood
  • Daily alcohol intake reduces plaque build-up throughout life
  • Moderate alcohol consumption lowers the bad (LDL) cholesterol
  • Alcohol beverages provide more antioxidants than do vitamins C, E and betacarotine, and
  • All types of drinks (beer, wine and distilled spirits) fight aterosclerosis

Blood Clots (3)

Drinking lowers the incidence of blood clots. Alcohol

  • Inhibits platelet growth
  • Increases the body's production of the enzyme t-PA, which helps regulate fibrinolysis, which reduces the formation of blood clots

Common Cold (12)

Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year fighting the symptoms of the common cold. Fortunately, research suggests that alcohol can reduce the risk of contracting a cold by up to 85%. More research needs to be conducted, but the results are most promising.

Diabetes Mellitus (13)

Diabetes is a major disease that can lead to blindness and many other serious problems and excessive consumption of alcohol must be avoided. However, research indicates that moderate drinkers are at reduced risk of developing Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Medical evidence indicates that

  • Moderate alcohol use is associated with lower incidence of diabetes
  • Moderate drinking among male diabetics lowers their future risk of poor circulation

Essential Tremors (26)

Perhaps five million Americans, usually over 60 years of age, suffer from from a condition called essential tremor (ET). Essential tremor usually involves the shaking of a body part, limb, or even the vocal cords. Although not life-threatening, essential tremor can seriously affect lifestyle. Many ET victims obtain relief from the tremor by consuming an alcohol beverage.

Gallstones (16)

Benefits of moderate drinking on gallstones identified by research include the following.

  • Moderate drinking greatly reduces the risk of developing gallstones
  • Drinking alcohol is associated with lower incidence of gall bladder disease
  • Female drinkers have a thirty percent lower risk of gallstones and
  • Frequent, not infrequent, drinking provides risk reduction for gallstones

Gastro-Intestinal Problems (17)

Research demonstrates that moderate alcohol consumption can help calm the stomach ihe same way Pepto Bismol does.

  • Alcohol promotes the flow of saliva for good digestion
  • Alcohol induces better absorption of nutrients
  • Some alcohol beverages have proven more efective than Pepto Bismol

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) (4)

A very high proportion of middle-aged adults and older people suffer hypertension. While regular light drinking reduces high blood pressure, it is esential that drinkers stay within moderate consumption levels. Research demonstrates that

  • Regular light drinkers experience fewer pressure-induced strokes
  • Light drinkers exhibit desirable blood pressure profiles and
  • Risk advisories are directed exclusively against heavy drinking

Coronary Heart Disease (5)

Ichemia refers to an impairment of blood flow to the body's organs or the obstruction of an artery. Ichemia of the heart is coronary heart disease (CAD). Alternative terms are IHD (ichemic heart disease), CAD (coronary artery disease), and CHD (coronary heart disease). Medical research has found that

  • Moderate drinkers have less ischemic disease
  • Higher per capita drinking nations have less ischemia and
  • Higher per capita drinking states in the U.S. have less ischemia

Heart Attacks (6)

The American Heart Association describes a heart attack:

The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle (the myocardium) is severely reduced or stopped. This occurs when one of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle is blocked. The blockage is usually from a build-up of plaque (deposiots of fat-like substances) due to atherosclerosis. A heart attack is often caused by a blood clot forming in a coronary artery...Such an event is sometimes called coronary thrombosis or coronary occlusion. (The Science of Healthy Drinking, p. 66)

Heart attacks are the major cause of death and reducing them is a major objective of public health. Research has repeatedly found that

  • Long-time drinkers suffer fewer damaging heart attacks.
  • Drinking reduces the risk of heart attack even among the overweight or obese and
  • Moderate consumption of alcohol can lower the risk of heart attact by up to one-half.

Mortality and Morbidity (22)

Morbidity refers to disease and mortality refers to death, both of which are undesirable. Research indicates that moderate drinkers tend to be healthier and to live longer than do abstainers or abusers of alcohol.

  • Research demonstrates a reduction of premature death for moderate drinkers compared to abstainers ranging from 10 to 40% and
  • Abstinance and abuse of alcohol are risk factors for both morbidity and mortality

Osteoporosis (23)

Over 25,000,000 Americans suffer osteoporosis or erosion of bone density. Fortunately, research demonstrates that moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial.

  • By 75 years of age, one in three men will suffer osteoporosis
  • Higher bone density is found among people who consume 12 drinks per week
  • Women who drink at least seven ounces of alcohol a week have higher bone denisties and
  • Post-menopausal women who drink have stronger bones.

Strokes (7)

Strokes occur when an artery supplying blood to part of the brain ruptures or becomes blocked, leading to the death of brain cells. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of long-tem disability in the U.S. Research has demonstrated that

  • Rates of stroke differ among different racial and ethnic groups
  • Light consumption of alcohol lowers the risk of ichemic stroke, by far the more common type.
  • Abstention from alcohol increases the risk of ichemic stroke and
  • A diet including fruit, vegetables, fiber, nono-unsaturated fats and moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of ichemic stroke

Ulcers (27)

It's ironic that alcohol, which was once thought to be an irritant for stomach ulcers turns out to provide protection against them. Medical research has made major discoveries about ulcers, their cause, and treatment.

  • Nine out of ten ulcers are caused by a bacterium, H.. pylori
  • Alcohol appears to exert a protective effect against H. pylori and
  • Moderate drinkers are less likely to suffer duodenal ulcers.

Vision (29)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of blindness as are cataracts. Some very promising medical research has been conducted but more needs to be completed.

  • The moderate consumption of alcohol may protect against macular degeneration and
  • Alcohol consumption is associated with lower prevalence of cortical cataracts

Cancer (8)

Cancer refers to a very comples series of diseases (the four major types being carcinomas, lymphomas, leukemias, and sarcomas) that share common biological processes. Research suggests that

  • Contrary to common belief, alcohol appears unrelated to cancers of the lung, bladder, prostate, stomach, ovary and endometrium and
  • Two to three drinks a day reduces overall risk of cancer.

Breast Cancer (9)

The relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer is unsettled and unsettling. Some studies find a weak relationship while others find none. Alcohol may be involved in about 3% of breast cancers. Women shouild evaluate all risk factors, including family history of breast cancer. It's important to consider the comparative risks for heart disease and breast cancer. About half of all women will die from heart disease; about 4% will die of breast cancer. Research suggests that

  • breast cancer risk increases with advancing age
  • Light alcohol consumption is not associated with breast cancer
  • No causal link between alcohol and breast cancer has been established
  • Heart attack deaths exceed those from breast cancer many times over and
  • The overall effect of moderate drinking is likely beneficial.


The material for this page is adapted from The Science of Healthy Drinking by Gene Ford. The book is published in South San Francisco, California by the Wine Appreciation Guild in 2002. Material on this web page is highly summarized and is best understood by reading the chapters indicated in parentheses.This website receives no benefit of any kind from the sale of the book.

Please note: This website does not provide any dietary, therapeutic, or medical advice, nor any opinion or recommendation of any type and none should be inferred. Always consult you physician or other health care provider for any and all questions about diet, drinking, exercise, medication, treatment or health.