Dr. Amy Shah: The Argument for Alcohol
- Written By:Dr. Amy Shah
As we all know, alcohol plays a large role in many cultures, from toasting big life moments to indulging in a few drinks to unwind. Research has shown that drinking alcohol in moderation (I define moderation as one drink per day for women, however I ask women to stay slightly under that, aiming for five drinks or less per week) can have some added health benefits.
Before reading, make certain to always consume alcohol safely and responsibly and always know your personal limits. Also, please be aware of the differences in how your health is impacted by drinking moderately versus drinking in excess as there are significant differences on your health.
The pros of drinking in a responsible way is that it can lower inflammation. There is a validated anti-inflammatory index in the literature and it ranks the most anti-inflammatory drinks and foods. Alcohol, in general, was graded as one of the most anti-inflammatory items. The anti- inflammatory effects of alcohol include reducing the reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha receptor 2.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in modern society and it consists of a broad category of diseases. The relationship between alcohol and heart disease is very complicated as light to moderate drinking is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease while heavy drinking will most certainly increase the risk. Moderate alcohol consumption may:
Raise “good” cholesterol in your bloodstream
Decrease your blood pressure
Lower your blood concentration of fibrinogen (a substance that contributes to blood clots)
- Temporarily reduce stress and anxiety
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes affects about 8% of the world’s population and is a result of a reduced uptake of glucose, or blood sugar — a phenomenon known as insulin resistance. Interestingly, drinking alcohol in moderation can actually reduce insulin resistance and drinking alcohol with meals may cut the rise in blood sugar by 16-37% more than water. Please note that drinking in moderation may reduce your overall diabetes risk, but drinking excessively will cause your diabetes risk to rise.
Increased Life Expectancy
A new study published in Health Affairs found that people who do not smoke, are not obese, and consume alcohol in moderation can expect to live seven years longer than the general population. The study examined data for more than 14,000 U.S. individuals and found that people that met the above parameters lived longer, were free of disability, and actually had a total life expectancy surpassing the population of Japan, a country that has set the highest standard for overall life-expectancy.
What to Drink?
As many of you know, some alcoholic drinks have better health benefits than others. Red wine is very beneficial because it is very high in healthy antioxidants and resveratrol. Resveratrol may boost heart health, protect against some types of cancer, and can prevent some types of vision loss. I like clear alcohols like vodka and tequila due to the distilled nature and lower calorie/sugar count.
Metabolically, the worst thing is to mix alcohol with sugary drinks as they can really increase the blood sugar after consumption and lead to unwanted weight gain. A tequila, soda on the weekends is my go to drink choice.
As always, drink responsibly, know your limits, and never operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery after alcohol consumption. Safety and health always first and moderation is always key!
Please note that binge drinking is not beneficial. This equates to consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in two hours is never recommended for health and safety reasons.