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Beer Kills, Too

My last post had the somewhat blasé title “Beer Saves Lives.” There are a lot of wonderful things about beer and alcohol in general. After all, we’ve been living with occasional fermented concoctions since our species evolved – and before that our bipedal ancestors were known to take a nip or two. But the key word there is occasional. Back in the old days – say, 100,000 years ago or so – we didn’t have things like cans of beer at the Kwik-E-Mart, or Simple Brew Kits to make our own alcohol. In fact, we only busted out the togas on those rare occasions when we would come across a bounty of fermented fruit on the ground. Another substance, sugar, was also a rare treat, often found right there with the fermented fruit – and then it was time to gorge.

But now that we have constant access to sugar and alcohol, our genetic programming tells us to get it while the getting’s good. That means we’re prone to obesity, and problems with alcohol. A new study from the CDC finds that over 2200 people die from alcohol poisoning each year in the U.S. – that’s six people a day. Three-quarters are male. And, though your first thought may be that most of these people are in the frat-boy set, 76% are aged 35-64. Your second thought may be that most people who die from alcohol poisoning must be alcoholics, but alcoholism is only associated with 30% of these deaths.

To put this in perspective, 38 million people in the U.S. report binge drinking* an average of four times a month, so .006% of these people (or 6 in 100,000) end up dying from alcohol poisoning each year. But it’s tragic nonetheless. And this doesn’t account for all the health- and injury-related problems associated with binge drinking.

My little berg, Longmont, CO, was set up as a temperance colony in the 1800s, where alcohol was banned in the city limits. The temperance movement gained enough momentum that Prohibition took effect in 1920 and lasted until 1933. That sucked. What we obviously don’t want is a teetotalitarian society. But I like the word temperance in the sense of tempering one’s appetites. I resolve to try a little more of that kind of temperance in 2015.


*Four or more drinks for women, and five or more drinks for men on an occasion.

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