Even a Little Alcohol Can Harm Your Health, Research Shows – The New York Times


“Sorry to be a buzz-kill, but that nightly glass or two of wine is not improving your health.

After decades of confusing and sometimes contradictory research (too much alcohol is bad for you but a little bit is good; some types of alcohol are better for you than others; just kidding, it’s all bad), the picture is becoming clearer: Even small amounts of alcohol can have health consequences.

Research published in November revealed that between 2015 and 2019, excessive alcohol use resulted in roughly 140,000 deaths per year in the United States. About 40 percent of those deaths had acute causes, like car crashes, poisonings and homicides. But the majority were caused by chronic conditions attributed to alcohol, such as liver disease, cancer and heart disease.

When experts talk about the dire health consequences linked to excessive alcohol use, people often assume that it’s directed at individuals who have an alcohol use disorder. But the health risks from drinking can come from moderate consumption as well.

“Risk starts to go up well below levels where people would think, ‘Oh, that person has an alcohol problem,’” said Dr. Tim Naimi, director of the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. “Alcohol is harmful to the health starting at very low levels.” “

Scientists think that the main way alcohol causes health problems is by damaging DNA. When you drink alcohol, your body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, a chemical that is toxic to cells. Acetaldehyde both “damages your DNA and prevents your body from repairing the damage,” Dr. Esser explained. “Once your DNA is damaged, then a cell can grow out of control and create a cancer tumor.” “

David Lindsay. Terrific update, and excellent comments. Such as:


I so wish someone had advised me to try removing alcohol from my life decades ago. At nearly five years sober now I care not so much about the benefits to my physical health, but the vast improvements to my state of mind are priceless. Fabulous deep sleep, each and every night, zero low grade depression anymore, intense clarity of thought, profound improvements in communication style and thus relationships. While you are using a drug it looks marvelous – how could you ever give up such a “pleasure”. But give it up and the rewards are huge – so beyond any pleasure I ever got from what now looks purely like the poison it is.

25 Replies1478 Recommended

Kennedy commented January 13


No more moderate drinking, I can’t use my stove and I’m turning my house upside down checking for any classified documents.

2 Replies1354 Recommended

HoustonJan. 13

Recent research that led to the mantra “Even small amounts of alcohol can have health consequences.” is widely misunderstood. The results from the supporting studies show none to extremely low population level health impact of low level alcohol consumption – marginally positive for some cardiovascular outcomes and slightly negative for cancer outcomes. The point is that drinking alcohol for the purpose of improving health does not seem to be justified as was claimed in some previous studies. However stopping low level alcohol consumption that may be enjoyable based on the studies is like stopping driving because “Any amount of driving increases your risk of death due to an accident”. The story is completely different for high levels of alcohol consumption.

8 Replies681 Recommended

David Wallace-Wells | Our History of the Pandemic Is a Mess – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

You’re reading the David Wallace-Wells newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  The best-selling science writer and essayist explores climate change, technology, the future of the planet and how we live on it.

We are entering the fourth year of the pandemic, believe it or not: Freshmen are now seniors, toddlers now kindergartners and medical students now doctors. We’ve completed two American election cycles and one World Cup cycle. Army volunteers are nearing the end of their active-duty commitment. It’s been a long haul but in other ways a short jump: Three years is not so much time that it should be hard to clearly remember what happened. And yet it seems to me, on many important points our conventional pandemic history is already quite smudged.

Opinion | I’m an N.Y.C. Paramedic. I’ve Never Witnessed a Mental Health Crisis Like This One. – The New York Times

Mr. Almojera is a lieutenant paramedic with the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and the author of “Riding the Lightning: A Year in the Life of a New York City Paramedic.”

“There are New Yorkers who rant on street corners and slump on sidewalks beside overloaded pushcarts. They can be friendly or angry or distrustful. To me and my colleagues, they’re patients.

I’m a lieutenant paramedic with the Fire Department’s Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, and it’s rare to go a day without a call to help a mentally ill New Yorker. Medical responders are often their first, or only, point of contact with the chain of health professionals who should be treating them. We know their names and their routines, their delusions, even their birthdays.

It is a sad, scattered community. And it has mushroomed. In nearly 20 years as a medical responder, I’ve never witnessed a mental health crisis like the one New York is currently experiencing. During the last week of November, 911 dispatchers received on average 425 calls a day for “emotionally disturbed persons,” or E.D.P.s. Even in the decade before the pandemic, those calls had almost doubled. E.D.P.s are people who have fallen through the cracks of a chronically underfunded mental health system, a house of cards built on sand that the Covid pandemic crushed.

Now Mayor Eric Adams wants medical responders and police officers to force more mentally ill people in distress into care. I get it — they desperately need professional help, and somewhere safe to sleep and to get a meal. Forceful action makes for splashy headlines.”

As one commenter put it, we just need universal health care, like other wealthy nations.

Paul Krugman | How China Lost the Covid War – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Do you remember when Covid was going to establish China as the world’s dominant power? As late as mid-2021, my inbox was full of assertions that China’s apparent success in containing the coronavirus showed the superiority of the Chinese system over Western societies that, as one commentator put it, “did not have the ability to quickly organize every citizen around a single goal.”

At this point, however, China is flailing even as other nations are more or less getting back to normal life. It’s still pursuing its zero-Covid policy, enforcing draconian restrictions on everyday activities every time new cases emerge. This is creating immense personal hardship and cramping the economy; cities under lockdown account for almost 60 percent of China’s G.D.P.

In early November many workers reportedly fled the giant Foxconn plant that produces iPhones, fearing not just that they would be locked in but that they would go hungry. And in the last few days many Chinese, in cities across the nation, have braved harsh repression to demonstrate against government policies.

I’m not a China expert, and I have no idea where this is going. As far as I can tell, actual China experts don’t know, either. But I think it’s worth asking what lessons we can draw from China’s journey from would-be role model to debacle.

Crucially, the lesson is not that we shouldn’t pursue public health measures in the face of a pandemic. Sometimes such measures are necessary. But governments need to be able to change policy in the face of changing circumstances and new evidence.

And what we’re seeing in China is the problem with autocratic governments that can’t admit mistakes and won’t accept evidence they don’t like.

In the first year of the pandemic, strong, even draconian restrictions made sense. It was never realistic to imagine that mask mandates and even lockdowns could prevent the coronavirus from spreading. What they could do, however, was slow the spread.

At first, the goal in the U.S. and many other countries was to “flatten the curve,” avoiding a peak in cases that would overwhelm the health care system. Then, once it became clear that effective vaccines would become available, the goal was or should have been to delay infections until widespread vaccination could provide protection.

You could see this strategy at work in places like New Zealand and Taiwan, which initially imposed stringent rules that held cases and deaths to very low levels, then relaxed these rules once their populations were widely vaccinated. Even with vaccines, opening up led to a large rise in cases and deaths — but not nearly as severe as would have happened if these places had opened up earlier, so that overall deaths per capita have been far lower than in the United States.

China’s leaders, however, seem to have believed that lockdowns could permanently stomp out the coronavirus, and they have been acting as if they still believe this even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

At the same time, China utterly failed to develop a Plan B. Many older Chinese — the most vulnerable group — still aren’t fully vaccinated. China has also refused to use foreign-made vaccines, even though its homegrown vaccines, which don’t use mRNA technology, are less effective than the shots the rest of the world is getting.

All of this leaves Xi Jinping’s regime in a trap of its own making. The zero-Covid policy is obviously unsustainable, but ending it would mean tacitly admitting error, which autocrats never find easy. Furthermore, loosening the rules would mean a huge spike in cases and deaths.

Not only have many of the most vulnerable Chinese remained unvaccinated or received inferior shots, but because the coronavirus has been suppressed, few Chinese have natural immunity, and the nation also has very few intensive care beds, leaving it without the capacity to deal with a Covid surge.

It’s a nightmare, and nobody knows how it ends. But what can the rest of us learn from China?

First, autocracy is not, in fact, superior to democracy. Autocrats can act quickly and decisively, but they can also make huge mistakes because nobody can tell them when they’re wrong. At a fundamental level there’s a clear resemblance between Xi’s refusal to back off zero Covid and Vladimir Putin’s disaster in Ukraine.

Second, we’re seeing why it’s important for leaders to be open to evidence and be willing to change course when they’ve been proved wrong.

Ironically, in the United States the politicians whose dogmatism most resembles that of Chinese leaders are right-wing Republicans. China has rejected foreign mRNA vaccines, despite clear evidence of their superiority; many Republican leaders have rejected vaccines in general, even in the face of a huge partisan divide in death rates linked to differential vaccination rates. This contrasts with Democrats, who have in general followed something like New Zealand’s approach, if much less effectively — restrictions early on, relaxed as vaccination spread.

In short, what we can learn from China is broader than the failure of specific policies; it is that we should beware of would-be autocrats who insist, regardless of the evidence, that they’re always right.”    -30-

Will Long COVID Research Provide Answers for Poorly Understood Diseases Like ME/CFS? < Yale School of Medicine

“In 1983, Rivka Solomon was 21 and attending the University of Massachusetts Boston when she and her two roommates came down with infectious mononucleosis, or “mono.” Her roommates recovered within a couple of weeks. She never did.

Debilitating Long-term Fatigue
Photo by courtesy of Rivka Solomon
Debilitating Long-term Fatigue
ME/CFS symptoms have kept Rivka Solomon in or near her bed for nearly 30 years.

Following her infection, she could barely get out of bed or stand up to brush her teeth. She was so sick she had to pull out of the university. This went on for a year until she went into what she describes as a “relatively spontaneous quasi-remission.” For several years, she was well enough to go to school, travel, work, and sometimes even exercise. But even during this respite, she constantly dragged a lingering exhaustion with her, and at unpredictable times she would find herself bedridden for days on end, never knowing when the debilitating fatigue would lift.

She was in graduate school in Washington, D.C., studying for her master’s degree when she was hit by a second infection, pneumonia. She pushed through the fatigue to finish her schooling—and then she collapsed. “Nobody told us back then, because nobody knew, that the primary thing you shouldn’t do when you have a post-infectious chronic illness is push through,” Solomon says. After graduation, she “crawled back” home to New England. This was in 1993. She has been in or near bed ever since.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a highly disabling, severe condition that has been largely overlooked and even questioned as an illness by medicine and researchers for decades. But now, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as one in eight infected people, according to Akiko Iwasaki, PhD, Sterling Professor of Immunobiology, are developing “long COVID,” in which symptoms persist for weeks, months, or years post-infection and some are developing symptoms indistinguishable from ME/CFS. As an increasing number of people become debilitated by the post-viral syndrome, researchers such as Iwasaki and Harlan Krumholz, MD, Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) are striving to uncover the mysteries behind the unrelenting fatigue and numerous other symptoms that seem to linger after COVID infection. They hope to provide answers to not only COVID “long haulers,” but also patients suffering from other poorly understood chronic conditions, including ME/CFS, that have been left unresolved for too long.

“The pandemic has opened the world’s eye to the fact that many chronic illnesses have been largely ignored, dismissed, and ridiculed,” says Iwasaki. “Long COVID has taught the world that these diseases are real, there is a biological basis for them, and we need to study them.” ”

Source: Will Long COVID Research Provide Answers for Poorly Understood Diseases Like ME/CFS? < Yale School of Medicine

How to Stay Safe From Covid This Holiday Season – The New York Times


“At this stage in the long slog of the pandemic, many of us are forgoing masks in places we previously wore them and getting together indoors when we had formerly avoided it. But the holidays throw new variables at everyone’s risk calculus. People trek across the country to see each other. Families crowd around dinner tables, with older, more vulnerable people sitting beside their younger relatives.

As we enter our third pandemic holiday season, some doctors are fearing a seasonal surge in Covid. In Europe — which many experts consider a bellwether for Covid cases in the U.S. — cases are starting to mount, prompting the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization to warn that a new wave of infections could be starting.”

Danielle Car | Is America Really in a Mental Health Crisis? – The New York Times

DL: Excellent article, though slow to start. It ends well:

“. . . . Solving the mental health crisis, then, will require fighting for people to have secure access to infrastructure that buffers them from chronic stress: housing, food security, education, child care, job security, the right to organize for more humane workplaces and substantive action on the imminent climate apocalypse.

A fight for mental health waged only on the terms of access to psychiatric care does not only risk bolstering justifications for profiteering invoked by start-ups eager to capitalize on the widespread effects of grief, anxiety and despair. It also risks pathologizing the very emotions we are going to need to harness for their political power if we are going to win solutions.:  -30-

Sarah Milov | Removing Nicotine From Cigarettes Would Spell a Historic Shift in Tobacco Regulation – The New York Times

Dr. Milov is an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and the author of “The Cigarette: A Political History.

“The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed lowering the nicotine content in cigarettes to less addictive levels. If adopted, this regulation would finally test one of the tobacco industry’s favorite claims: that smoking is a choice. Portraying smoking as a willful, personal decision has long allowed tobacco companies to promote cigarettes even while acknowledging their deadly risks. But the paradigm of individual choice has also guided cigarette regulation, ironically strengthening the industry’s key talking point — until now.

Nicotine is the addictive element in a cigarette. By reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes, federal regulations will, for the first time, address the key driver of cigarette consumption, which claims 480,000 American lives each year. Nicotine’s effects are particularly acute in adolescence, which is when most smokers start.

Tobacco companies have long understood that physiological dependence on nicotine — or what executives preferred to call nicotine satisfaction — was central to their business. Since the 1960s, the tobacco industry has manipulated ammonia levels in cigarettes to enhance nicotine’s effects. As one cigarette company research director commented in 1954, “It’s fortunate for us that cigarettes are a habit they can’t break.” “

Teens Are Getting Sick From Products With High THC Levels – The New York Times

“It didn’t smell, which made it easy to hide from her parents. And it was convenient — just press a button and inhale. After the second or third try, she was hooked.

“It was insane. Insane euphoria,” said Elysse, now 18, whose last name is being withheld to protect her privacy. “Everything was moving slowly. I got super hungry. Everything was hilarious.”

But the euphoria eventually morphed into something more disturbing. Sometimes the marijuana would make Elysse feel more anxious, or sad. Another time she passed out in the shower, only to wake up half an hour later.

This was not your average weed. The oil and waxes she bought from dealers were typically about 90 percent THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. But because these products were derived from cannabis, and nearly everyone she knew was using them, she assumed they were relatively safe. She began vaping multiple times per day. Her parents didn’t find out until about one year later, in 2019.”

Excellent article with good comments, both pro and con THC use and abuse.

Here is a comment that stood out for me.

Springfield3h ago

It’s the number one cause of reversible erectile dysfunction and male infertility for men under 30 at my urology office. Large increase in patients since state where I practice legalized. Similar to alcohol- a little might promote the mood, a lot – not so much. A generation of guinea pigs having to learn moderation is key to life.

3 Replies110 Recommended

Black Death: A Clue to Where the Plague Originated – The New York Times

“Where and when did the Black Death originate? The question has been asked for centuries and led to heated debate among historians.

Now, a group of researchers reports that it has found the answer in the pulp of teeth from people buried in the 14th century.

Based on their analysis of the preserved genetic material, the researchers report that the Black Death arrived in 1338 or 1339 near Issyk-Kul, a lake in a mountainous area just west of China in what is now Kyrgyzstan. The plague first infected people in a small, nearby settlement of traders eight years before it devastated Eurasia, killing 60 percent of its victims.”