Alcohol and Your Health: Moderate Consumption

While excessive drinking may contribute to, or even cause health problems, an abundance of recent medical research points to numerous health benefits associated with the consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol, including reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. What’s more, moderate drinking may even be more beneficial to your overall heart health than the most scrupulous diet and exercise regimen. 

The evidence is not entirely clear that moderate consumption of red wine is better for you than beer and liquor. All three appear to offer similar health benefits.

According to the research, moderate consumption of beer, wine, and distilled spirits can improve your physical, mental, and emotional outlook health, and increase your longevity. Red wine, in particular, is noted for its cardiovascular benefits. Antioxidants in red wine called “polyphones” may help protect the lining of the blood vessels in your heart. Another polyphenol, resveratrol, may also help prevent damage to blood vessels, lower risk of heart disease, and reduce "bad" cholesterol (LDL), which collects in the walls of your blood vessels and increases risk of heart attack or stroke. 

Le Paradoxe Français

“The French Paradox,” sometimes attributed to the regular consumption of red wine, refers to the low rate of coronary heart disease in France despite an average diet that is substantially higher in saturated fat than the average diet in the United States. However, Dr. R. Curtis Ellison, a physician and professor of medicine and public health at Boston University who has studied health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption, found that Northern Ireland consumes the same amount of alcohol per capita but enjoys fewer health benefits as the French. Dr. Ellison posits that immoderate and binge drinking is more common in Northern Ireland, which negates the health benefits gained from moderate alcohol consumption. He also notes the health benefits of moderate drinking are virtually exclusive to middle-aged and older people: “The adverse affects of binge drinking and intoxication are particularly common in the young.”

What is “Moderate” Alcohol Consumption?

Moderate drinking is generally defined as the consumption of up to one “standard drink” a day for women and two drinks a day for men. A standard drink is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as half an ounce of alcohol (e.g., one 12 oz. beer, one 5 oz. glass of wine, or one 1.5 oz. shot of distilled spirits).

Moderate drinking is generally defined as the consumption of up to one “standard drink” a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

Toxicologist and BACtrack Advisor Amitava Dasgupta, Ph.D. has said before that this moderate consumption can also be quantified as a BAC level. Using an accurate breathalyzer, such as a Professional Grade BACtrack, you can actually target the "perfect" BAC level that will allow you to both enjoy all the health benefits of the alcohol while not suffering any overt or embarrassing inebriation. 

Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Consumption

The evidence is not entirely clear that moderate consumption of red wine is better for you than beer and liquor. All three appear to offer similar health benefits. 

Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce or prevent:

  • Heart attacks
  • Ischemic strokes
  • Circulatory problems 
  • Blood pressure
  • Thrombosis (blood clotting) 
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive ailments
  • Duodenal ulcers
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Essential tremors
  • Gallstones
  • Hearing loss
  • Stress and depression 
  • Type B gastritis
  • LDL (“bad”) cholesterol – and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Angina 
  • Osteoporosis and bone fractures 
  • Hepatitis A
  • Kidney stones
  • Liver disease
  • Macular degeneration
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Poor cognition and memory
  • Poor physical condition in elderly
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Before we raise our glasses and toast to our health, consider that some skepticism exists regarding the validity of the research. Alison A. Moore, professor of medicine and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, notes, "None of the studies that have examined the association of drinking and mortality and cardiovascular disease have been experimental studies in which a group of people was randomly chosen to drink a particular amount of alcohol or to not drink alcohol.” In addition, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that the moderate consumption of alcohol may provide overall health benefits for most moderate drinkers, particularly a “boost in cardiovascular health,” but it can also increase the risk of colon and breast cancer.

Nevertheless, moderate alcohol consumption, unless contraindicated for health or religious reasons, does seem to offer a host of confirmed health benefits.

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