Men live longer on four beers a day, Catholic uni researchers find

Men who drink up to four beers - and women who drink two glasses - per day live longer, a study by researchers at an Italian Catholic university has found.

Eurekalert reports that a study carried out by the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Campobasso in Italy confirms the beneficial effects that moderate consumption of alcohol has on our health.

The study provides further evidence that alcohol, when consumed in moderation, reduces the risk of death, and not just that due to cardiovascular disease

The research, published in the American journal Archives of Internal Medicine, clearly shows that drinking in moderation has beneficial effects on health.

The key word is moderation, the researchers say, noting that their study also confirms that excessive consumption of alcohol is absolutely harmful, and indeed increases the risk of death.

"Our data shows that consumption of little amounts of alcohol leads to a reduction of mortality up to 18%," says Augusto Di Castelnuovo, lead author of the study. "But after a certain number of glasses things radically change: who drinks too much not only loses this advantage, but increases his own risk of death in relation to the amount of alcohol consumed".

The study also highlights significant differences between men and women. Whereas men report a beneficial effect after consuming a maximum of 2-4 units (with one unit equalling a glass of wine or beer), for women alcohol's protection disappears after just two glasses a day.

However, the study also found that the protection for American men provided by moderate consumption of alcohol is lower than that observed for Europeans while for women the situation is substantially the same both on both continents.

The researchers speculate that the difference may be due to the fact that Europeans tend to drink wine rather than other alcoholic beverages and to do so over a meal - both habits which differ from those of Americans. On the other hand, women on both continents tend to consume alcohol is roughly the same way.

"The core of this study is not just about alcohol," says Giovanni de Gaetano, director of the Research Laboratories at the Catholic University.

"It is also the way we drink that makes the difference: little amounts, preferably during meals, this appears to be the right way.

"The message carried by scientific studies like ours is simple: alcohol can be a respectful guest on our table, but it is good just when it goes with a healthy lifestyle, where moderation leads us toward a consumption inspired by quality not by quantity," de Gaetano concluded.

Bishop on blinder at Irish Embassy Christmas Party

However, it appears that Professor de Gaetano's message is yet to reach an English Anglican bishop who was found with a black eye and a bump on his head that prevented him from wearing his mitre following a Christmas party at the Irish Embassy in London.

The BBC reports that clergy in the Diocese of Southwark are calling on their bishop to issue a statement of "repentance and regret" after he was found, apparently drunk, in the back of a silver Mercedes throwing children's toys out of the window.

The Bishop of Southwark, Dr Tom Butler, repeated his earlier claim that he has no memory of the episode in Crucifix Lane, Southwark.

He cannot recall how he got from a Christmas party at the Irish Embassy, near Buckingham Palace, to a back street near Southwark cathedral and from there to his home, bloodied and bruised, in Tooting Bec Gardens.

Priests in his diocese want their bishop, who they say has always taken a "zero-tolerance" approach to drunkenness by the clergy, to come clean.

Some are considering writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, asking him to investigate Dr Butler under discipline rules.

One senior clergyman said: "We want to know what happened. We want consistency. The same ethic applies to him as to a first-year curate found drunk outside a youth club. He must make some kind of statement about this. We expect it of politicians, why not bishops?"

He quoted 1 Timothy 3: 2-3: "A bishop must be above reproach . . . not a drunkard."

Alcohol and health: Those 2 glasses a day that lengthen your life (Eurekalert, 11/12/06)
Alcohol in moderation may extend life (Reuters, 12/12/06)
Clergy call on their 'drunk' bishop to show penitence (The Times Online,12/12/06)
Bishop's blinder earns him a black eye (The Age, 13/12/06)
Men 'live longer on four beers a day' (Metro, 12/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Research Centre, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Campobasso

13 Dec 2006