A new study shows the beer drinkers outrun the Puritans | Mulshine

The Bay Head Shark Run 5-K earlier this month resulted in a complete sweep of the age groups for the Mulshine clan.

I won the over-65 category while my daughter Casey and her husband Dan Bunker won in the 25-29 category.

Afterwards we went home and had a few beers.

This is typical for runners, yet various health "professionals" say it is unwise. They make silly arguments like "You'll become dehydrated" -- conveniently forgetting that beer is 95 percent water.

In fact, what they are advancing is not science but puritanism, "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy," as the great H.L. Mencken defined it.

It's been 100 years since Mencken was battling the Prohibitionists -- unsuccessfully as it turned out. In that time science has come over to the side of those of us who find an enjoyable life preferable to one spent in self-imposed deprivation.

The latest such evidence came in the Sunday New York Times in the form of an article on a scientific study published in the journal Health Psychology that "provided the first evidence of a daily within-person coupling between PA and alcohol consumption across the adult lifespan."

Or in other words, the more people engage in "PA" -- physical activity -- the more they drink, mostly beer.

The study demolished the notion that physical activity should be prescribed as an alternative to drinking. In fact, the authors wrote, they complement each other.

This is hardly surprising. Consuming alcohol is associated with an increase in HDL, the so-called "good" cholesterol that clears the arteries. Exercise also increases HDL.

That makes exercise and drinking the perfect recipe for a healthy heart. Yet to this day the puritans rail against one practice while praising the other.

This makes no sense, says the psychologist who sent me a copy of the study, Stanton Peele , formerly of Morristown and now of New York City.

Peele has made a career of taking on the American health establishment for its failure to accept that drinking is not only good for you but is a practice that Americans avoid at their peril.

His latest heresy comes in an article on the Pacific Standard website in which Peele cites the recent heart-attack death at age 57 of Bob Welch, a former star pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Welch gave up drinking in his early 20s and described his story in a book he co-wrote titled "Five O'Clock Comes Early: A Cy Young Award-winner Recounts his Greatest Victory. "

Maybe it wasn't a victory after all, wrote Peele.

"Had Welch smoked, his obituaries would have mentioned it by way of explaining how a world-class athlete might have died prematurely of heart disease," he writes. "But no one would dare suggest that quitting drinking might be responsible for his heart attack."

Yet that's what the science suggests, said Peele when I phoned him. Many people who have overindulged in alcohol while very young are advised that they must give up all alcohol for life.

"They say Welch became an abstainer because he went overboard at 19," he said. "That's like marrying your high school girlfriend at 19. It's not likely to work out."

In Welch's case, Peele said he doubts whether he was informed that studies show that the only worse health decision he could make would be to take up smoking.

"Unbeknownst to society, the second biggest risk factor for heart disease is abstaining from alcohol," he said. " Drinking moderately lowers the risk of heart attack by 40 percent. That's a giant factor, yet it's hidden from Americans."

He noted that studies show that even heavy drinkers have lower heart-attack rates than abstainers.

The reason is not hard to deduce. There are just four sources of calories for the human body - protein, fat, carbohydrates and alcohol. Of the four, only alcohol has a positive role in the prevention of heart attacks.

"They're picking the wrong one out of the pile to eliminate," said Peele.

Alcohol can be abused, but so can the other three, as the current epidemic of obesity proves. But Americans will denounce "fat-shaming" while tolerating "alcohol-shaming."

"Alcohol-shaming is a mainstream practice in America," he said.

The idea of not drinking is a relatively recent invention in history, he said. Religious fundamentalists promoted it in America based on nothing more than their innate puritanism. In fact, the work of archaeologists shows that all six of the world's great cultures engaged in fermentation of either grapes or grains, he said.

People also got a lot of exercise back then - whether they wanted to or not.

It was only with the running boom of the 1970s that Americans -- or at least some of them - started to see the merit of exercise once again.

As for the merits of drinking beer afterward, it appears they've figured that out as well - even if the health establishment hasn't.


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(Watch Stan destroy Bill O'Reilly on the issue of moderation.)