People are really good at hearing what they want to hear.

There is a lot of conflicting information being presented, and one has to process it to decide what seems right and how to proceed. No, I’m not talking about voting, though you totally should. Today I will look at alcohol.

The French Paradox says wine is good for you!

A writer at Mother Jones wonders, “Did alcohol give me cancer?

And most recently, “No amount of alcohol is safe.”

I have a history of high cholesterol, and I got to play with cholesterol in Organic Chemistry lab. If you never took OChem in college, every lab is about synthesizing or isolating a product, and your grade depends on how efficiently you managed to do so. So the instructor always checks how much you made and makes sure it matches with the lab report you eventually turn in. Cholesterol is a pale paste that kind of resembles lard. My lab partners and I ended up with this test tube with a splat of cholesterol in it, and to our horror, realized we forgot to weigh it empty. (Weight full – weight empty = weight of product, then you do math with molecular weights to see how efficient your process was) We’re on limited time, so they were cleaning up and grabbing stuff for the next experiment, while I frantically scrubbed with soap and water. Which did precisely nothing. Finally, the lab instructor took pity on me and advised, “There is some ethanol under the fume hood.” With a teensy little splash, that test tube sparkled! This convinced me of two things: 1) When dish soap doesn’t do it, try cleaning a grease spot with cheap vodka and 2) There is probably something to having a little drink with fatty foods.

And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told that story to and had them process it as: drinking heavily is totally good for me. But here’s the thing: your blood vessels are not made of glass. Alcohol is a bit poisonous, so it is processed out of your body by your liver and various enzymes. And if you give your liver too much to deal with, it won’t deal with it all. Then you have toxic crap wreaking havoc on the rest of your body.

It’s a rather long Mother Jones article, but my takeaway was that 2 servings of alcohol per day raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer higher than having the BRCA gene. You know, the one that had Angelina Jolie have her ovaries and her breasts removed? That one. Men, you had a statistic in there, too, but I don’t have it on the top of my head, because I didn’t store it into RAM.

Now, to get pedantic about it, there will always be at least trace amounts of alcohol in your body. There’s going to be some fermentation (that’s okay, everybody farts) somewhere in your guts, which will result in alcohol. Unless you have a rare condition, your body will detoxify it so that you won’t actually notice, but you’ll never get down to zero, just like you’ll never avoid chemicals, because if you’ve taken even a high school science class, you know that every bit of matter in the universe is made of chemicals. (Yes, even YOUR water, sales guy at Whole Foods. Especially your water.) HOWEVUH, if you can’t go a week without having a drink, maybe that is something you should examine.

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