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Thread: Alcohol and health

  1. #1 Alcohol and health 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Moderate alcohol consumption boosts body's immune system, study suggests

    Interesting point from sciencedaily.
    According to an experiment on rhesus monkeys, moderate consumption of alcohol actually boosts the immune system.


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    Interesting. Any idea what the mechanism behind this would be?


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  4. #3  
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    Not really. Apart from what is in the article.

    However, there is a theory floating around called hormesis. This theory is a bit like the idea of vaccines. If you challenge the body, it adapts and strengthens. By this theory, if correct, consuming a poison in small doses does no harm, but the body responds by building its defenses. If the poison attacks the immune system, but mildly (due to the low dose) the immune system will respond by strengthening.

    I do not know if this is correct, but it is an interesting idea nevertheless.
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    I'm not so enamoured of the hormesis idea. No particular reason that I can tease out, it might turn out to be the right one.

    I'm a bit more interested in the links between our personal set of umpty million cells of gut flora and the immune system. I'd not be surprised if it turned out that a small dose of alcohol would affect some bacteria and fungi more than others and in a variety of ways. Keeping the dose to the right, small, amount could be what makes it work well.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Not really. Apart from what is in the article.

    However, there is a theory floating around called hormesis. This theory is a bit like the idea of vaccines. If you challenge the body, it adapts and strengthens. By this theory, if correct, consuming a poison in small doses does no harm, but the body responds by building its defenses. If the poison attacks the immune system, but mildly (due to the low dose) the immune system will respond by strengthening.

    I do not know if this is correct, but it is an interesting idea nevertheless.
    A couple years ago, I was chatting with a nurse-and asked her about her health in dealing with so many contagious people, and she said that constant exposure had strengthened her immune system and she never got sick-----------------
    wowsir
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Not really. Apart from what is in the article.

    However, there is a theory floating around called hormesis. This theory is a bit like the idea of vaccines. If you challenge the body, it adapts and strengthens. By this theory, if correct, consuming a poison in small doses does no harm, but the body responds by building its defenses. If the poison attacks the immune system, but mildly (due to the low dose) the immune system will respond by strengthening.

    I do not know if this is correct, but it is an interesting idea nevertheless.
    A couple years ago, I was chatting with a nurse-and asked her about her health in dealing with so many contagious people, and she said that constant exposure had strengthened her immune system and she never got sick-----------------
    wowsir
    Yet, but it could hit her like a ton of bricks, suddenly. joc
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Not really. Apart from what is in the article.

    However, there is a theory floating around called hormesis. This theory is a bit like the idea of vaccines. If you challenge the body, it adapts and strengthens. By this theory, if correct, consuming a poison in small doses does no harm, but the body responds by building its defenses. If the poison attacks the immune system, but mildly (due to the low dose) the immune system will respond by strengthening.

    I do not know if this is correct, but it is an interesting idea nevertheless.
    In Victorian London there was a group of people called toshers. These people spent their days crawling through the sewers of the city, looking for valuable trinkets such as coins and bits of jewellery which others had discarded, by accident or otherwise. When the great Cholera epidemic of 1832 hit, word has it that the toshers where the only group within society that never caught the disease - their daily work had exposed them to the pathogens to such a degree that their bodies had build up a natural immunity over time.

    Since there are no actual statistics ( which we would consider scientifically meaningful ), this must be considered as hearsay, but I nonetheless find it interesting and plausible.
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  9. #8  
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    A couple years ago, I was chatting with a nurse-and asked her about her health in dealing with so many contagious people, and she said that constant exposure had strengthened her immune system and she never got sick-----------------
    wowsir
    But I hope she gets her flu shots every year.
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  10. #9  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    I have another query on alcohol.

    We all know that the consumption of alcohol causes some harm to society. Alcoholism. Domestic violence. Car accidents. Even murders while under the influence. On the other hand, there are benefits. Moderate consumption appears to have health benefits. There are social benefits. Social gatherings around alcohol tend to be more successful. It has value as an antiseptic, especially in times gone by. In the past, mildly alcoholic drinks have saved humans from disease, by giving them something safe to drink instead of contaminated water. And there is the sheer pleasure of the effect of alcohol.

    So do you think alcohol is a net good or a net detrement? Or to put it another way. If you had a magic wand and could wave it, eliminating alcohol as a drink for humans, would you do so? And what is the reason for your answer?
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    If you had a magic wand and could wave it.....
    Wave it first to eliminate pestilence, ignorance, greed, and stupidity, and thenceforth the alcohol problem would resolve itself. joc
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  12. #11  
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    I wouldn't want that power
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  13. #12  
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    So do you think alcohol is a net good or a net detrement? Or to put it another way. If you had a magic wand and could wave it, eliminating alcohol as a drink for humans, would you do so? And what is the reason for your answer?
    No I wouldn't eliminate it.

    I'd say it was a net good.*

    Being South Australian I'm probably biased in favour of wine and boutique-style beers, but wine with food and cold beer on a hot summer afternoon are benefits that add to a civilised life. And to a rambunctious life, for that matter.

    Then there are other issues. When early town and city living risked people suffering water-borne infections like cholera, the availability of porter, ales, beers and other fermented drinks was a real boon to general health. Probably still are in many locations.

    Also the use of fermented food items in some form of sustenance, even if it's only to preserve other foods, means that people can get the most food value bang for their agricultural buck.

    There's also the other uses of alcohol itself. In the days before modern drug treatments and other chemicals, alcohol was a universal antiseptic and a pain or psychotherapeutic medication. It wasn't as good nor as targeted as modern items, but something's better than nothing.

    *(And I speak as someone who was once married to an abusive drunkard.)
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Wave it first to eliminate pestilence, ignorance, greed, and stupidity, and thenceforth the alcohol problem would resolve itself. joc
    Sorry Jocular.
    It does not work like that. This wand has a single spell. You can use it to eliminate the drinking of alcohol, or not use it. No third option.

    What will you do?
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    So do you think alcohol is a net good or a net detrement?
    Alcohol is not the problem - alcohol culture is. It is the attitude ( and subsequent mode of use ) of a given society towards alcohol which determines whether it is a net good or a net detriment. There isn't any way to make a universal call on this.
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Not really. Apart from what is in the article.

    However, there is a theory floating around called hormesis. This theory is a bit like the idea of vaccines. If you challenge the body, it adapts and strengthens. By this theory, if correct, consuming a poison in small doses does no harm, but the body responds by building its defenses. If the poison attacks the immune system, but mildly (due to the low dose) the immune system will respond by strengthening.

    I do not know if this is correct, but it is an interesting idea nevertheless.
    A couple years ago, I was chatting with a nurse-and asked her about her health in dealing with so many contagious people, and she said that constant exposure had strengthened her immune system and she never got sick-----------------
    wowsir
    Work in a public school and you will learn that the first year you get everything...the next year you have been exposed so much you're pretty much immune!
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I have another query on alcohol.

    We all know that the consumption of alcohol causes some harm to society. Alcoholism. Domestic violence. Car accidents. Even murders while under the influence. On the other hand, there are benefits. Moderate consumption appears to have health benefits. There are social benefits. Social gatherings around alcohol tend to be more successful. It has value as an antiseptic, especially in times gone by. In the past, mildly alcoholic drinks have saved humans from disease, by giving them something safe to drink instead of contaminated water. And there is the sheer pleasure of the effect of alcohol.

    So do you think alcohol is a net good or a net detrement? Or to put it another way. If you had a magic wand and could wave it, eliminating alcohol as a drink for humans, would you do so? And what is the reason for your answer?
    Grew up making wine,

    Met my grandmother in Slovenia for the first time in the family wine cellar and she offered me wine...European cultures don't seem to have such an adversity as other cultures.....I don't know if I is a net good or bad, but I will enjoy mine daily for as long as I live. My Auntie is 92, Mom will be 90, Uncle 89, Auntie 88...and wine never hurt them .....so......I have never had alcohol to get drunk. I don't like that feeling. I enjoy a couple glasses of wine a day.....moderation is the key!
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  18. #17  
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    Adelady, I am very sorry to hear you were married to an abusive alcoholic!

    I am so sad to hear that, but I am also HAPPY to hear at you were smart enough to get OUT of there!

    That takes COURAGE, LADY!

    GOOD ON YOU!
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  19. #18  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    I have another query on alcohol.

    We all know that the consumption of alcohol causes some harm to society. Alcoholism. Domestic violence. Car accidents. Even murders while under the influence. On the other hand, there are benefits. Moderate consumption appears to have health benefits. There are social benefits. Social gatherings around alcohol tend to be more successful. It has value as an antiseptic, especially in times gone by. In the past, mildly alcoholic drinks have saved humans from disease, by giving them something safe to drink instead of contaminated water. And there is the sheer pleasure of the effect of alcohol.

    So do you think alcohol is a net good or a net detrement? Or to put it another way. If you had a magic wand and could wave it, eliminating alcohol as a drink for humans, would you do so? And what is the reason for your answer?
    Certainly not. It is a source of harmless pleasure to most people and helps social events tremendously.

    As Markus Hanke says, the problems are to do with poor alcohol culture. This is especially true in the Northern latitudes.
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Or to put it another way. If you had a magic wand and could wave it, eliminating alcohol as a drink for humans, would you do so? And what is the reason for your answer?
    A few notes:

    1) We tried that. It didn't work.
    2) A few centuries back it did a LOT of good by helping to make water safer to drink. Beer contains just enough alcohol to kill off common pathogens.
    3) In general our overall health would go up if we eliminated alcohol, but that's due to a small percentage of people who abuse it. For most people it has no effect. For some it is a mild positive. For a few it is a huge negative.
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  21. #20  
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    I rarely drink...but when in a tropical climate, usually only drink beer. I grew up in a wine culture and am amused when people say that some groups 'learn to drink'. Actually a lot of these populations are walking, functioning alcoholics.

    I like living in a place where one can turn in the tap for a refreshing glass of water.

    Moderate amounts of Alcohol beneficial? Way too many variables to know one way or the other. I doubt if a drink or two a day does any harm but equally skeptical that it does any good.
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    As with some others, I do not consider alcohol to be problematical.

    People who use alcohol unwisely are the problem. If we were to eliminate alcohol, the same people would merely find something else to use and abuse. The lack of moderation is a flaw in our species in my opinion but I suspect that it serves some genetic purpose for it adds an interesting dimension to our way of thinking and doing things.

    As I recall, many of the more famous persons in recent history had various immoderate habits, alcoholism being one of the more common ones.

    Hi I'm a Famous Alcoholic list
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  23. #22  
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    When you say "YOU CAN'T", people tend to want to do it more.

    I have no problem with alcohol. My GF's Dad was an alcoholic.....but I grew up making wine ....and continued at a friends winery in Eureka. (great wine by the way)

    Drink moderately......it's actually healthy to some extent.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by scheherazade View Post
    The lack of moderation is a flaw in our species in my opinion but I suspect that it serves some genetic purpose for it adds an interesting dimension to our way of thinking and doing things.
    I don't think it's species specific. We just have the intelligence to create enough things for ourselves to be able to overconsume them. Other animals are known to get themselves silly drunk on fermented fruit. They just can't figure out how to encourage fermentation themselves and they haven't developed agriculture.

    I would not be surprised if there are people who have turned their pets into alcoholics. There are certainly pets that have eating disorders.
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  25. #24  
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    This sounds suspiciously like the claim often made by herbal and quack remedies that the product "activates the immune system".
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  26. #25  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alec Bing View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by scheherazade View Post
    The lack of moderation is a flaw in our species in my opinion but I suspect that it serves some genetic purpose for it adds an interesting dimension to our way of thinking and doing things.
    I don't think it's species specific. We just have the intelligence to create enough things for ourselves to be able to overconsume them. Other animals are known to get themselves silly drunk on fermented fruit. They just can't figure out how to encourage fermentation themselves and they haven't developed agriculture.

    I would not be surprised if there are people who have turned their pets into alcoholics. There are certainly pets that have eating disorders.
    With animals and fermented fruit, I do not think that getting drunk is the attraction. I am of the opinion that it is the easy availability of the sweet fruit. In the wild, food is frequently either sparse or available to excess when in season and animals starve or gorge accordingly.

    As for overweight pets and pets with eating disorders, I would attribute that to the animals eating a contrived diet that is not what they would eat in nature and to humans compensating with 'cupboard love' instead of adequate exercise and portion control, largely the same reason we have morbidly obese humans.
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