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The good, the bad and the silly

Is drinking truly all that bad for health? What benefits does it come with, really?
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - July 9, 2010
By: Wong Wei Chen
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The good, the bad and the silly

“Drinking is bad. It messes up your organs, makes you bad company and destroys your life.”

It’s hard to go against an argument so solidly backed by empirical evidence and statistics. Alcohol consumption, when carried to an extreme, does lead to bad outcomes. But the question is: should all manner of drinking be lumped with alcoholism, and uniformly condemned as a vice?

I don’t have the “right” answer for you. But what I can do is to go through the pros and cons, and you decide for yourself whether drinking is good for you or not.

The good
Some studies have found alcohol helpful in fighting against heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular ailments in middle-aged people. They suggest that maximum benefit can be derived from a regular regimen that involves limited amounts of drink.

The idea that moderate drinking protects against cardiovascular diseases has a biological basis. Moderate amounts of alcohol raise the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), and higher HDL levels have been associated with better protection against cardiovascular ailments. Moderate consumption has also been associated with better insulin sensitivity and the prevention of blood clots that may choke arteries.

The bad There’s no lack of literature on the evils of alcoholism, and I’ll make no bones about this: uncontrolled imbibing is going to ruin you! Excessive alcohol fries your liver and kidneys, damages brain functions, exacerbates clinical depression, wreaks havoc on your social life, and the list goes on.

Alcoholism is bad. Period.

The silly
Given the heading of this section, you’ll probably think that I’ll be going on about the ills of alcoholism. No, I’m not going into that – haven’t I already done it? The silliness I want to talk about here is that of intellectual laziness.

To some extent, all of us are creatures of fashion. We frequently hear people around us saying things like drinking is bad, smoking is bad, gambling is bad, and the like. Depending on your socioeconomic status, significant others and other factors, it may indeed be fashionable to admit that certain things are bad. I’m sure you already realise how uncool it would be to champion the cause of Big Tobacco! In our bid to stay on the right side of the divide, we go around mouthing clichés that are so tired they could fall asleep any moment!

Do you regularly chow down a juicy beef burger overflowing with oil and fats? A lot of good that does your heart! How about sodas and colas? Calories galore with zero nutritional value. And oh, are you into durians too?

Unless our definition of “the good life” is nothing short of a spartan regimen of the most austere kind, we’re probably harming our bodies one way or another most of the time. As a case in point, I just had deep-fried fish fillet for lunch.

Things get problematic, however, when we classify our beliefs and actions into “good” and “bad” according to the dictates of prevailing fashion; and beyond a certain point, we slide down the slippery slope into unmitigated intellectual laziness.

So don’t jump to hasty conclusions. Do your homework, widen your perspective, then think through the issues carefully. By deciding for yourself whether you ought to drink or not, and how much you should consume in the event that you decide to do so, you’re taking a neat step forward on your journey towards becoming free “citizens of the universe”.


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