Our study shows that what we like to do makes us healthier! Right...

Have I not posted in a month? Good grief. Well, here's something I have been chewing over for a while.

The truth about studies showing the health benefits of alcohol consumption is that they are wishful thinking wrapped in scientific-studies biased in subtle ways.

Here is a recent one: that alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of dementia.

First, be a bit dubious of a study that reviews the results of other studies. It's almost original research, but it's not the same thing as constructing a study to focus on that issue.

Second, be skeptical of studies that bless behavior people want to do anyway. Whether it is simply media spin, subtle bias on the part of the researchers or overt bias, it's pretty dodgy.

Third, be enormously skeptical of any study that can't separate out behavioral aspects that have non-random socio-economic correlations.

For this study, chances are that there are a number of factors related to alcohol consumption and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. Those who drink alcohol may be more socially active, which can reduce the risk of dementia. Those in and out of hospitals and nursing homes are less able to drink alcohol compared to healthier people. Moderate wine-drinking professors emeritus may have a much lower risk of dementia than their alcohol-abusing lower educated and lower income cohorts who are more prone to heavy alcohol consumption. Obese elderly likely are not moderate drinkers, and we know obesity has a strong effect on mental functionality.

Conclusion: You can't separate out these factors, so tying alcohol consumption to a lower risk of dementia is likely spurious, at best.

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