Weighing the Pros and Cons of Alcohol
You know all the times you love to have a drink:
- A tall glass of wine after a long day at work
- A cold, frothy beer on a hot summer day
- Or a snifter of whiskey on a snowy winter evening.
While there’s a variety of health benefits associated with alcohol, there’s plenty of health risk to consider, as well. Whether it’s a regular part of your life, or not, it’s important to know what’s helping, what’s hurting and what you should look out for.
The Pros of Alcohol
Jimmy Buffet will go down in history for a singular song lyric, “Wasted away again in Margaritaville.” Why? Because most people can associate with it. The feeling of sipping a cold blended drink while you sit on a porch, the smell of dinner wafting from the kitchen, is very real for many people. Alcohol is about more than consuming a beverage; it’s about the memories and social aspect that come along with it.
Dana Fenton, of SteadyHealth.com, says, “Early Protestant leaders such as John Calvin and Martin Luther believed alcohol was a gift from God and should be used in moderate amounts for enjoyment, pleasure and health.”
To enjoy the gift of alcohol, however, it’s important to consider how moderate is defined. According to the CDC, “Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.” When you consume alcohol in these amounts, the pros of drinking are many.
Lowered risk of stomach ulcers
Alcohol has been found to lower the risk of peptic ulcers because the alcohol has been found to destroy harmful bacteria called helicobacter pylori. However, studies have also proven the exact opposite effect. Because of this, most health professionals suggest to err on the side of caution. If you have a history of ulcers, keep alcohol to a minimum.
Lowered risk of cardiovascular disease
According to research by the School of Public Health at Harvard University, small amounts of alcohol raise your levels of good cholesterol, HDL, which has been linked to lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
MedicalDaily.com also reports that alcohol can result in, “… Better sensitivity to insulin to improvements in factors that influence blood clotting …. Such changes would tend to prevent the formation of small blood clots that can block arteries in the heart, neck, and brain, the ultimate cause of many heart attacks and the most common kind of stroke.”
Reduced risk of gallstones
Researches at the University of East Anglia found that when participants had two UK units of alcohol (one pint of beer) their risk of having gallstones were lowered by one third.
Other health benefits include:
- Reduced risk of stroke
- Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
- Improved social well-being
The Cons of Alcohol
With the good comes the bad, and there’s a whole host of negative effects from alcohol. Like the pros, the cons of booze can affect you physically and mentally, becoming a disturbance in your relationships and changing your lifestyle. From cancer to depression, consider the ways alcohol can be harmful:
Increased weight gain
Alcohol, whether you drink liquor, beer, or wine, is loaded with calories that contribute to weight gain. For example, a pint of beer is 230 calories. Now imagine how many pints you might consume while watching football and eating pizza. You could walk away from that game having indulged in over 1,000 calories with just a few tall of beer.
Increased risk of cancer
Alcohol increases your risk of cancer when it’s converted into acetaldehyde, which is considered a dangerous carcinogen. This happens during the normal process of absorption, when your body is metabolizing the alcohol. This particular conversion happens in the liver, and can increase your risk of cancer in the larynx, mouth, breast and colorectal region.
Though the human brain shrinks an average of 1.9% per decade, alcohol offers a helping hand in the process. WebMD explains, “Heavy drinking speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting in memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.” Excessive drinking can also cause deficiencies in your nutrition, specifically in your B vitamin levels, which leads to other forms of dementia such as Korsakoff’s syndrome, a chronic lapse in short-term memory.
Other health risks include:
- High blood pressure
The key to drinking is balance, or as Fenton said, always in moderation. Drinking has become a social aspect of most people’s lives; you drink at parties, after a long day of work, or to celebrate a special occasion. However, one too many celebrations and you could be risking dementia, cancer and depression. Drink your alcohol in moderation to enjoy the health benefits, not suffer from the risks.
Do you feel like you are missing the benefits of drinking? Or, is drinking taking its toll on your health?
(Share this article with your drinking buddy!)