The avid alcohol drinker, the occasional drinker, and those who drink moderately will all like this article. Apart for a few, most people have a tendency to just go along with the crowd or to take the Straight path of believing without ever considering the alternatives. Many people think that alcohol use is undesirable and should be completely avoided. It’s obviously false, and the evidence paints a quite different image.
There is a lot of conflicting information regarding alcohol on the internet. On the one hand, it has been shown to be beneficial to health in low to moderate quantities. On the other hand, it’s very addicting and very dangerous, especially when taken in large amounts. that the effects of alcohol on one’s health can differ greatly from person to person and may be influenced by the quantity as well as the type of alcohol that is drunk.
It’s a tricky situation
That is the most accurate method to explain the connection between drinking and one’s state of health. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, a lot of studies have shown that reducing the amount of alcohol one consumes can have positive effects of alcohol on one’s health. But drinking too much alcohol, especially at bad times, can also have a lot of bad effects. There are still some arguments and disagreements about how to weigh these things against each other.
Even though it’s easy to say “drinking too much alcohol is bad for you” and then list the many bad things that happen when people drink too much, like liver disease and car accidents, it’s much harder to give good answers to the following simple but important questions:
- Exactly how much is too much?
- Is there a difference in the potential risks and benefits of drinking?
- A little bit versus not drinking at all?
There are numerous such questions and so many ifs and buts. Let’s dig further…
People have been drinking fermented beverages for somewhere around 10,000 years, and in that time they have also been debating the benefits and drawbacks of these beverages. Even in modern times, people continue to argue over whether or not alcohol consumption is beneficial to one’s health, and there is a lot of back and forth over this topic.
It is not an exaggeration to state that alcohol can act both as a remedy and as a poison. The dosage is where the majority of the difference lies. Moderate alcohol use may be good for your heart, blood vessels, and cardiovascular system. It may also lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes and gallstones. In most countries, drinking too much is the leading cause of death that can be prevented.
In the United States, alcohol is a factor in almost half of all fatal automobile accidents. Excessive drinking can cause damage to the liver and heart, cause harm to an unborn child, increase the risk of getting breast cancer and several other malignancies, lead to depression and violence, and interfere with relationships.
Nobody should be surprised that alcohol has both positive and negative effects. Ethanol is the main psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic drinks. It is a simple chemical that has a wide range of effects on the body. It has a direct impact on the gastrointestinal tract as well as the heart, gallbladder, and liver. It also changes the levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as how inflammation and blood clotting work. Moreover, it has an effect on mood, focus, and coordination.
What Does It Mean to Have Reasonable Amounts of Alcohol?
Some of the ongoing debate about the health effects of alcohol is caused by people using the words “moderate” and “a drink” in too broad of a way.
Some studies say that “moderate drinking” means having no more than one drink a day, while others say that it means having between three and four drinks a day. The definition of “a drink” itself is also subject to interpretation. In point of fact, there is no definition of a standard drink that is universally acknowledged, even among scholars who study alcohol.
In the United States, one drink is typically thought of as consisting of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey). On average, each one has between 12 and 14 grams of alcohol. However, now that microbrews and wines with higher alcohol content are being made, there is a wider range to choose from.
The concept of drinking in moderation requires a certain degree of self-control and self-awareness. If you drink alcohol in moderation, the benefits to your health are so great that they clearly outweigh the risks.
According to the most recent consensus, this point is set at no more than one to two drinks per day for males and no more than one drink per day for women. This is the definition that is utilized by the United States Department of Agriculture as well as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, and it is commonly utilized throughout the United States.
Alcohol may have some positive effects of alcohol on one’s health.
What are some of the ways that drinking alcohol in moderation might be good for your health?
According to more than 100 prospective studies, there is a link between light to moderate drinking and an increased risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes. The impact is pretty constant, and it corresponds to a reduction in risk that ranges from 25–40%. On the other hand, drinking more than four drinks of alcohol per day is linked to a higher risk of high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, stroke, heart attack, death, and even death from any cause.
Both men and women have been found to benefit from drinking alcohol in moderation by having a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease. It applies to people who do not have heart disease as well as those who are at high risk for having a heart attack or stroke or dying from cardiovascular disease. This includes people who have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or who already have cardiovascular disease. The advantages are also available to those in their later years.
It makes sense, both physically and scientifically, that drinking alcohol in moderation can protect against cardiovascular disease. Drinking alcohol in moderation has been shown to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, sometimes known as “good” cholesterol), and research has shown that higher HDL levels are connected with improved protection against cardiovascular disease.
Some positive changes have also been linked to drinking alcohol in moderation. Changes include a better response to insulin and an increase in blood-clotting factors like tissue-type plasminogen activator, fibrinogen, clotting factor VII, and von Willebrand factor. The effect of these changes would be to stop the formation of small blood clots that could block arteries in the heart, neck, and brain. This is the underlying cause of many heart attacks and the most prevalent type of stroke.
Drinking Patterns Matter
It does not appear to make nearly as much of a difference whether you drink beer or wine as how you drink it. A drinking pattern of one drink per day does not at all include drinking seven drinks in one sitting on the weekend and then abstaining from alcohol for the rest of the week. Although the cumulative amount may be the same each week, this does not mean that the effects on one’s health will be the same.
Participants in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that drinking alcohol at least three or four times a week made them less likely to have a myocardial infarction. It appeared that the frequency of use was more important than the quantity ingested each day, regardless of whether it was less than 10 grams or more than 30 grams. The men in Denmark exhibited the same pattern of behavior.
A comparison was made between women who drank the same amount of alcohol over the course of four or more days per week and women who drank the same amount of alcohol over the course of one or two days. The review of the Nurses’ Health Study I and II found that women who drank smaller amounts of alcohol (about one drink per day) spread out over the course of four or more days per week had the lowest death rates from any cause.
A large trial in which some volunteers were randomly assigned to have one or more alcoholic drinks a day and other volunteers had drinks that looked, tasted, and smelled like alcohol but were actually alcohol would be the most definitive way to investigate the effect that alcohol has on cardiovascular disease.
Many of these studies have been done for weeks, months, or even up to two years to look at changes in the blood. However, there has never been a long-term experiment to test the effects of alcohol on cardiovascular disease. The Department of Health provided funding for a recent initiative that was successful in the United States and launched an international investigation.
Even though the proposal had been reviewed by peers and the first volunteers had been randomly assigned to either drink in moderation or not drink at all, the NIH decided after the fact to end the experiment because of problems with internal policy.
Despite the fact that a long-term study of alcohol and clinical outcomes may never be attempted again, all of the evidence to date suggests that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between moderate drinking and cardiovascular disease.
May be good for the heart as well
The heart isn’t the only organ that can benefit from drinking alcohol in moderation. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and other research, those who drank moderately had a lower risk of developing gallstones and type 2 diabetes [32, 42, 43] than people who did not drink at all. The consumption of alcohol in moderation is emphasized not only here but also elsewhere.
A meta-analysis of 15 original prospective cohort studies that followed 369,862 people for an average of 12 years found that moderate drinking (drinking between 0.5 and 4 drinks per day) was linked to a 30% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers found that people who drank less or more than recommended had no effect on their health.
It is impossible to deny that alcohol consumption has both social and psychological benefits. A drink before a meal can help you digest, and a drink at the end of a hard day can help you relax. Having a drink with friends once in a while can be a social tonic. A drink before a meal can offer a soothing respite at the end of a stressful day. It’s possible that these physical and social consequences also contribute to one’s overall health and well-being.
Genes do play a part in this
Studies on twins, families, and adoption have all shown that genes play a big role in how someone likes alcohol and how likely they are to become an alcoholic. Alcoholism defies Gregor Mendel’s straightforward guidelines for how traits are passed down via families. Instead, it is determined by how different genes interact with each other and with things in the environment.
In addition, there is some evidence that genetics play a role in the way that alcohol affects the cardiovascular system. An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase helps metabolize alcohol. Alcohol dehydrogenase type 1C (ADH1C) is the name of one type of this enzyme. It comes in two different “flavors.” Both are able to break down alcohol, but one does it more quickly than the other.
Those who drink alcohol in moderation but have two copies of the gene for the fast-acting enzyme are at a considerably higher risk for cardiovascular disease than moderate drinkers who have two copies of the gene for the slow-acting enzyme. Those individuals who have one gene for the slower-acting enzyme and one gene for the faster-acting enzyme are considered to be in the middle.
There is a good chance that the fast-acting enzyme breaks down alcohol before it can help HDL and clotting factors. This is because the fast-acting enzyme degrades alcohol at a faster rate. It is interesting to note that the variations in the ADH1C gene do not have any impact on the likelihood of developing heart disease in people who do not consume alcohol. This is strong indirect evidence that drinking alcohol makes you less likely to get heart disease.
The debate is still on
Over the course of a person’s life, the pros and cons of drinking alcohol in moderation will change. In general, the risks are greater than the benefits until middle age. After that, the cardiovascular disease starts to cause more and more illness and death, which changes the balance.
Moderate drinking is not good for your health and can be dangerous for some people, like pregnant women and their unborn babies, people in recovery from alcoholism, people with liver disease, and people taking one or more drugs that interact badly with alcohol.
Moderate drinking may be good for your heart health in some ways, but for a 30-year-old man, the increased risk of accidents caused by drinking outweighs these possible benefits.
If a guy is 60 years old and does not have a history of alcoholism, drinking one drink per day may offer protection against heart disease that is likely to offset the potential harm caused by drinking.
Calculating the benefits and risks for a woman who is 60 years old is more complicated. After heart disease (460,000 deaths per year), breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the United States (41,000). Yet, research has shown that women are significantly more concerned about having breast cancer than they are about developing heart disease. This is an important consideration that needs to be taken into account.
The Nutshell: Finding a Happy Medium Between Dangers and Gains
It is impossible to provide general advice on alcohol consumption because of the complexity of the effects alcohol has on the body as well as the complexity of the people who drink it. Because each person’s personal and family history is different, the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol are also different for each person. When deciding whether or not to drink alcohol, especially for “medical reasons,” it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons.
Your doctor or other medical professionals should be able to help you with this. Your general health as well as the risks linked to alcohol-related diseases have to be taken into consideration.
If you already have a low BMI, get lots of exercises, don’t smoke, eat a balanced diet, and don’t have a history of heart disease in your family, drinking alcohol won’t do much to lower your risk of heart disease.
There is no need for you to begin drinking if you do not already do so. Eating better and being more active, like starting to exercise if you haven’t been or making your current activity harder and longer, can both help you in similar ways.
A man who does not have a history of alcoholism but who is at a moderate to high risk for heart disease may find that drinking one alcoholic beverage per day lowers his risk of developing the condition. People who find it hard to raise their HDL levels through changes in diet and exercise alone may benefit the most from drinking alcohol in moderation.
If you are a woman with a moderate to high risk of heart disease and no history of alcoholism in your family, you should weigh the possible health benefits of having one drink per day against the small chance that you will get breast cancer.
If you currently consume alcohol or if you intend to start, do it in moderation: no more than two drinks per day for males and no more than one drink per day for women. Also, make sure you get at least 400 micrograms of folate every day.
Disclaimer: The author’s views are his or her own. The facts and opinions in the article have been taken from various articles and political commentaries available in the online media and Eastside Writers does not take any responsibility or obligation for them.
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