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Moderate drinkers: Big belly, no, big bucks, yes

No, you don’t have to go back and read the headline a second time because, yes, you read it correctly the first time. According to two new studies, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol will not, I repeat, will not give you that infamous beer belly or equate you to middle to lower class, all-American man Hank Hill sitting in your front yard, admiring your latest mow job with a cold beer cracked and gripped in your hand. In fact, it might mean just the opposite.

The first of the two studies took place over the course of eight years, taking more than 20,000 beer drinkers and their beer-boasting habits into review. The results: although heavy drinkers were shown to put on some weight, it wasn’t necessarily on, around, or even near the belly.

It was those who drank more than 33 ounces, or two-and-a-half bottles, per day, that packed on the most pounds.

This study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and reported by Fox News in a recent article.

The second study found that moderate drinkers are wealthier, more educated and less likely to be disabled than those who choose a fixed seat on the wagon, which would also relate to all those studies published about how alcohol has been shown to increase life expectancy.

According to Dr. Sei J. Lee of San Francisco VA Medical Center and his colleagues, one drink a day halved a person’s risk of dying over the next four years, as reported by Fox News. Even after taking into account several factors that could influence alcohol use and mortality, the effect was weakened, but moderate drinkers were still 28 percent less likely to die than non-drinkers.

Believe it or not, the very first study to demonstrate this information was published more than 70 years ago, back in 1923. I guess that makes sense, taking into consideration that whole Prohibition bit….

What is still uncertain, however, is whether moderate drinkers (and I have to stress MODERATE here, that doesn’t include Mr. “I can drink a case of Bud and be fine” Dude) are healthier, overall, than non-drinkers.

I personally think it has something to do with the fact that moderate drinkers may just be overall less stressed than non-drinkers. Alcohol is a depressant, and drinking it in social situations lowers people’s inhibitions and allows many to relax and enjoy themselves more. If one never takes it too far, I think a life a little more relaxed would be better than one a little more stressed. Not to mention, stress is one of the biggest causes of death in the United States. It helps skyrocket cholesterol and blood pressure, and even aids in increasing weight because of its relation to cortisol production in the body.

And as far as the moderate drinkers likely to have more money and more education, that study took into account functional disability and socioeconomic status.

Going back to Lee and his colleagues, they discovered that people who downed one drink a day had a significantly higher socioeconomic status than non-drinkers, as measured by income, wealth and years of education. As an example, 37 percent of drinkers had a college education, compared to 14 percent of non-drinkers, and 52 percent of drinkers had $300,000 in assets, while 21 percent of non-drinkers did.

They also found that non-drinkers also were more likely to have functional disabilities, such as difficulties in completing self-care activities like getting dressed or going to the bathroom, as well as problems with more complex activities such as making meals or managing their finances.

(This all goes back to what I touched on earlier…more relaxed and stress-free means less likely to develop problems. It’s all psychological.)

All this new information makes happy hour sound even, well, happier. Now, if I can only make it ’til 5:00….