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Showing posts from March, 2012

Wine and breast cancer: Here we go again

Yet another article about a possible link between wine and breast cancer is in the news, and as usual it is being widely quoted without any critical analysis or perspective. The article in question, a review of previously published studies, estimates that even a glass of wine per day increases risk of breast cancer and estimates that 1-2% of all breast cancer cases are attributable to light drinking alone. Rather than pick apart the article item by item, which would take all day since there are so many issues, I will highlight a few important things.
First, there are fundamental problems with the way that these types of studies are done, and reviewing them simply magnifies the underlying mistakes. Here’s the thing: in order to know if for example a glass of wine per day affected breast cancer risk, you would have to follow a large population of women who drink only wine, only a glass per day, every day, rarely more, rarely anything other than wine, and rarely not having a drink; this …

Wine and civilization: we wouldn’t be here without it

As a physician I go to a lot of symposia, the term often used for meetings where exchange if ideas is the goal. It is interesting to note that the word “symposium” actually derives from classical Greek, meaning“to drink together.” The tradition was that following dinner, the men would retire to a special room dedicated to the purpose of drinking and philosophical discussions. There would be toasts to the gods, ancestors, and fallen heroes, then the revelry would truly begin, often lasting until the early hours of the morning. Here’s an excerpt from Plato: “Socrates took his seat … then they turned their attention to drinking. “ A member of the party named Pausanius said “Well gentlemen, how can we arrange to drink less tonight? To be honest, I still have a hangover from yesterday. “ Hard to believe that the canons of Greek philosophy, the underpinnings of modern civilization, had such origins as this.
But going back even further, wine is what civilized our nomadic hunter-gatherer ance…