How Much Is Too Much?

In 2023, I made a decision. There was no specific reason to make this decision at this time, other than the fact that I felt like it was the right thing to do. If I remember correctly, the decision was made after having read Outlive by Peter Attia, MD and, shortly after, listening to a Huberman Lab podcast about the health implications of alcohol. I found my self wondering - If the goal is to live as long as I can, and stay as healthy as possible during that time, then why would I knowingly consume something that potentially interferes with that goal? 

The change was simply to limit the amount of alcohol that I consume. Notice that I said limit, not eliminate.

Things have been going pretty well since I made the change, and to be honest I had not even been thinking about it very much. It had simply become a habit, a part of my routine. Over the weekend, The New York Times posted an article titled Is That Drink Worth It To You?, which focused on the health implications of alcohol consumption. Seeing the title of the article brought me back to last year. It brought me back to the decision-making process. It allowed me to reflect on the decision that I made a little over a year ago. After reading the article (hint - you can read it too if you click on the link above), it confirmed my decision.

I would not say that I had any issues with drinking alcohol. I would occasionally have a beer with my dinner, or maybe a couple of glasses of wine or cocktails while hanging out with some friends. The choice was to be more diligent and limit my consumption even more than in the past.

The hard part was figuring out what restrictions would work best for me. Ultimately, I decided to allow myself to have a drink one night per week and would be allowed to consume UP TO 2 DRINKS during that night. This change did not prevent me from doing anything that I wanted to do, but it did make me think about whether I really wanted to have a drink. If I knew that we were getting together with friends on Saturday afternoon, then I would skip having a beer with my pizza on Friday night. (Or maybe I would just choose to drink a non-alcoholic beer. Let me tell you they have improved quite a bit since the days of O'Doul's!)

For years, we have been led to believe that 1-2 drinks a day was not only not a big deal, but we were led to believe that it may actually help to improve our health. People would often quote a study that showed some health benefits, but the benefits always seemed to be a little vague. Last year a meta-analysis was published that concluded that no amount of alcohol improved health outcomes. The results seemed to demonstrate some of the potential negative impacts that alcohol can have on our long-term health.

These results have lead quite a few countries to make some changes in how they talk about alcohol consumption. Ireland even placed a warning label regarding cancer risks on bottles. 

The consensus opinion on the metaanalysis is that no amount of alcohol is good for us. The more drinks we consume in a week the greater our risk of long term health implications. You may be wondering - What should we do when alcohol appears to be such an integral part of how our society seems to function? 

My suggestion for everyone is to work to do what you can to limit and control the alcohol that you consume. 

(Little piece of advice - If you offer an alcoholic drink to someone and they decline, rather than asking them why they don't want it, offer them an alternative non-alcoholic option.)


Movement is my medicine,
Dr. William "Chip" Bleam

Dr. William "Chip" Bleam


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