In addition, excessive alcohol intake may result in serious health problems, including damage to the liver and brain. Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by 1 or more of the following problems: (1) failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities because of drinking; (2) drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery; (3) recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and (4) having social or relationship problems that are caused by or worsened by the effects of alcohol.
Alcoholism (alcohol dependence) is a more severe pattern of drinking that includes the problems of alcohol abuse plus persistent drinking in spite of obvious physical, mental, and social problems caused by alcohol.
For example: Say you want to compare people who drink spirits and beer to wine drinkers.
These two groups of people might have other differences at the outset aside from their choices of boozy beverage.
As Ioannidis points out in his new paper, “Individuals consume thousands of chemicals in millions of possible daily combinations.” We also prepare our foods in thousands of different ways, and when you add one thing to your diet, you take another away.
Teasing out the influence of these variables on health outcomes is “challenging, if not impossible,” Ioannidis added.
That’s why observational studies in nutrition are only supposed to be hypothesis-generating, not a source for definitive statements about how a single food or nutrient increased or decreased the risk of a disease by a specific percentage.
You wouldn’t know that if you read the conclusions of nutrition studies and especially much of the reporting on nutrition studies.
“But while the paper is so nice and so useful [at estimating alcohol’s disease burden],” Stanford meta-researcher John Ioannidis told me, “at the last moment it destroys everything.” Instead of focusing on the message about the dangers of excessive drinking, “it focuses on making a claim that no alcohol use is safe.” Not only did the data in the paper not support a zero drinks recommendation, but the authors were also guilty of doing what too many nutrition researchers do: They used definitive, causal language to talk about studies that are only correlational.
That’s something Ioannidis, a longtime critic of nutrition science, recently called out as a major source of confusion for the public.