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Alcohol- Health Pro or Health Con?

Health benefits and risks of alcohol

by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN  |  5305 views  |  1 comment  |        Rate this now! 

Alcoholic beverages have been enjoyed throughout recorded history. For some, a drink with dinner may be relaxing. Others may enjoy the inhibitions that alcohol can create to “let loose” with friends. Many people drink for the health benefits. After-all, evidence shows that moderate drinking may lower the risk of heart disease. Drinking alcohol can be good for you but it can also be bad. This is dependent on how much your drink, your age, and other factors.

The Health Pros

Research shows that drinking any type of alcohol "lightly" helps heart health. Alcohol has been shown to raise good cholesterol levels reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. There have been over 300 studies specifically on grape flavonoids that have shown that drinking red wine may help decrease your overall risk of heart disease.

Studies have also shown that alcohol can increase insulin sensitivity which can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. There is even a small study that found women who drink moderately may keep their minds more sharp as they age.

The Health Cons

With all these pros it can sound as if enjoying your favorite cocktails with friends is just as much as a health benefit as eating vegetables. There is one catch though- the amount. These health benefits are only available for light drinkers, defined as 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. One drink equals a 12 oz beer, 5 oz wine, and 1.5 oz 80-proof distilled liquor. Keep in mind that the large sized wine glasses that many of you may have in your cupboards can hold more like 8-10 oz making your one glass into two.

Once you drink over this amount you are now in the health risk category. The health risks of alcohol include liver disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, heart failure, stroke, and certain cancers. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that excessive drinking causes more than 75,000 deaths from various causes in the U.S. each year. Excessive drinking is defined as more than 1 drink daily for women and more than 3 drinks at one time. For men, more than 2 alcoholic drinks daily or more than 4 drinks at a time.

So the bottom line is if you don't drink then it likely isn't wise to start drinking for the health benefits. You can achieve similar benefits from diet and exercise. For those of you who do drink, check in with how much you drink daily or in one sitting and avoid binge drinking. It is truly a fine line between health benefits and health foe.
Fast Facts:

About the Author

Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian, and a columnist for Work It, Mom! and the founder of Real Living Nutrition Services, an online weight loss program that empowers people to make small changes s

Read more by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN

1 comment so far...

  • This is a nice summary of an often confusing topic. Thanks. Oh, but no thanks for ruining my day with that note about margaritas being loaded with calories. Grrr. This is not what a girl wants to hear!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 26th November 2007