Should You Drink Alcohol?

Should You Drink Alcohol?

For almost 10,000 years or so, humans have been consuming fermented beverages. For about the same duration of time, they have constantly been arguing about its merits and demerits. The debate regarding alcohol still simmers today.

You would have been told how alcohol is bad for your health and creates a lot of problems for your general health. But did you know that consuming alcohol in moderation can also be beneficial for you?

Different studies have proven that consuming alcohol in moderation can cut down the risk of different cardiovascular diseases.

You may ask what moderation actually means here. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a moderate amount of alcohol means 14 drinks for men and 7 for women on a weekly basis.

But this obviously doesn’t exempt alcohol from all the dangers it carries. The two-faced nature of alcohol must not come as a surprise to you. The active ingredient of this beverage is what you know as ethanol.

Ethanol can affect your mind and body in a variety of ways. It directly acts on the heart, brain, gall bladder, stomach, and liver. It can alter the levels of lipids, triglycerides, and cholesterol in your blood. Alcohol can even disrupt the normal levels of insulin and pave way for unnecessary coagulation and inflammation.

If that’s not enough, alcohol also has a capacity to play with your mental health. It can reduce alertness and concentration and can even produce mood swings.

What are the benefits of alcohol if you consume it in moderation? How much alcohol should you drink to avail these benefits? How can alcohol affect your body if you consume too much of it? Keep reading to find out.

How can Alcohol Benefit You?

If you expect alcohol to prove beneficial to you, remember that moderation is the key.

  • Stroke

According to a study performed at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, it has been proven that alcohol consumption in moderate amounts can actually reduce the risk of stroke in females.

If you love to treat yourself with red wine, know that it is particularly effective for avoiding brain damage due to stroke.

  • Gall Stones

Your love for alcohol can finally pay off and prevent you from developing gallstones, as per a study conducted by the University of East Anglia.

That’s right! Your chances of developing gallstones reduce by one-third if you consume two units of alcohol every day.

  • Diabetes

A Dutch study has indicated that adults that consume one to two glasses of alcohol every day are less likely to develop diabetes type 2 as compared to those who do not drink.

This means that alcohol consumption can actually uplift your healthy lifestyle. Amazing, isn’t it?

  • Dementia

In a study in which 365000 people participated, researchers reported in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment journal that people who used to drink alcohol in moderation adn23 percent less vulnerable to developing any cognitive impairment.

Surprised?

Should You Drink Alcohol?
Image by Nation of Change

This is because alcohol is responsible for making your brain cells fit and healthy. It can reduce the stress and strengthen them up, allowing them to actively fight the process of dementia.

  • Cardiovascular Complications

Several studies tend to support the fact that alcohol consumption in moderation is actually good for your heart health.

It has been reported by the researchers in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that moderate levels of alcohol can actually prove as cardio-protective for you.

The Dark Side of Alcohol

While alcohol tends to offer a lot of benefits to your health in moderation, it is difficult to achieve them. This is because not everyone who likes alcohol tends to stop at just one serving. While a lot of people limit their alcohol intake, there are so many who don’t.

Heavy drinking can easily take a toll on your body. It may lead to inflammation of the liver (causing alcoholic hepatitis). Sometimes, it can even scar the liver leading to cirrhosis, a potentially deadly disease.

Drinking too much alcohol can also cause an increase in blood pressure. It can damage your heart muscles trigging another harmful disease called cardiomyopathy. A heavy use of alcohol can even cause certain types of cancer.

Scientists established a strong link between overconsumption of alcohol and cancer of different organs. These organs include mouth, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, liver, breast, rectum, and colon.

Ethanol, the main component of alcohol plays a great role in triggering all these diseases. It breaks down to form another compound acetaldehyde which is also carcinogenic in nature. The risk of cancer further increases if a person starts smoking tobacco or observe poor dietary patterns simultaneously.

RELATED: Healthier Alternatives To Alcohol

Risks of Consuming Too Much Alcohol

Now that you know that alcohol does improve your health, it does not mean you should start gulping down alcohol like a medicine. Drinking alcohol in large amounts can be harmful to you at the same time and cause the following complications:

  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fatty liver
  • Gout
  • Hypertension
  • Seizures
What’s the Safe Limit?

In the United States, the word “drink” refers to almost 5 ounces of wine. It is comparable to 1.5 ounces of liquor and almost 12 ounces of beer. All of these drinks have around 14 grams of pure alcohol which you may know as ethanol.

Bartenders these days tend to serve much larger drinks. Recent surveys estimate that at least half of the deaths occur due to consuming 3 or more drinks per day. Researchers have concluded that on an average, alcohol-related cancer deaths can shorten lives by 18 years.

Should You Drink Alcohol?
Image by University of Manitoba
Why do Women have Lower Alcohol Limit?

Science has proven that there are a number of reasons why women must be consuming less alcohol as compared to men. Some of these reasons are mentioned below:

  • Alcohol basically tends to disperse in body water and women have lesser water content in their bodies as compared to males.
  • The threshold related to safe alcohol use is generally related to the body mass. Women weigh less than men which explains why they have a lower alcohol limit.
  • The levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (AHD) are lesser in women as compared to men. AHD is responsible for breaking down alcohol within the liver. Consuming too much alcohol will cause accumulation in women’s bodies.
  • Hormonal factors are said to make women more vulnerable to the harmful aspects of alcohol.
The Bottom Line

Due to the complexity of the effects alcohol imposes on your body, it is not suitable for you. It is not easy to predict how alcohol is going to affect you as well. This is because every person has a different personality and family history. This makes the spectrum of benefits and risks of alcohol different for every person.

If you are drinking alcohol for medicinal purposes, the process requires careful balancing. Your doctor can help you establish this balance carefully. They will factor your health condition and alcohol-related risks into the equation to purpose a suitable plan.

If you have a lean figure, have an active lifestyle, eat healthily, and do not smoke, alcohol may not increase your risk of heart disease. But this does not mean you should start relying on alcohol more than ever.

Be careful about your consumption. Alcohol may be dangerous but enjoying it once in a while does not hurt.

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Nancy holds a Pharmacy degree from University of Michigan and Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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