Those of us who are no strangers to the internet and social media have undoubtedly seen articles or links about the health benefits of alcohol. And if you are a stranger to the internet, how did you find this blog?
We’re flooded with headlines like “New Harvard study finds a glass of wine every day can have huge health benefits” and “New Study Shows That Beer is Actually Good for You!” But these headlines are only shocking because we’re all, at least somewhat, aware that alcohol consumption has negative effects.
So what’s the rub? Well, if you don’t drink, starting for the potential health benefits is not a smart idea. If you do drink, moderate consumption is the key. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week for women. And, for men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.
Researched health benefits
Keeping with American Heart Month, moderate drinking can lower your risk of heart disease. More than 100 prospective studies demonstrate an inverse relationship with light to moderate alcohol consumption and risk of heart disease and death. But moderation is important as excessive alcohol consumption increased the risk.
It can also help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. A meta-analysis study found a U-shaped relationship with alcohol consumption and diabetes. That means with moderate consumption, the risk is lowered (by about 30%). But, if you venture past moderation the benefit disappears.
Problems associated with drinking
Alcohol is a poison. To much of it in one setting can rise to toxic levels and result in death. But before reaching alcohol poisoning, heavy use can cause a myriad of health problems. It can also perpetuate itself if you become addicted resulting in alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD).
The list of problems is extensive. Heavy, prolonged drinking can lead to cancer of the mouth or esophagus, damage the brain, malnutrition, liver damage, weak heart muscles, suppressed immune system, hemorrhagic pancreatitis, and other problems.
If you do use alcohol, its important to make sure that you’re partaking responsibly. Don’t use alcohol to self-medicate. This means that using it to escape from stress is not a healthy coping mechanism. It can lead to dependence.
There are also some health conditions and situations where it is important to avoid alcohol. They include:
- You’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant
- You’ve been diagnosed with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, or you have a strong family history of alcoholism
- You’ve had a hemorrhagic stroke (when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures)
- You have liver or pancreatic disease
- You have heart failure or you’ve been told you have a weak heart
- Taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol
Don’t start because of potential health benefits if you don’t drink alcohol. However, if you drink a light to moderate amount and you’re healthy, you can probably continue as long as you drink responsibly.
Remember, no more than 7 drinks per week for women and 14 for men as well as not exceeding 3 or 4 per day. One drink is defined as 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, and 1.5 oz of distilled spirits.
Be sure to check with your doctor about what’s right for you.