It is common knowledge that drinking too much alcohol is bad for you and can increase your risk for cancer, liver disease and accidents among others. However, on a more positive note, moderate alcohol consumption may have some substantial health benefits, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.”
The South African Food-based Dietary Guidelines state that alcohol should be consumed sparingly and it should also be said that no one should begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits. However, if you are healthy and you do drink alcohol, rest assured that there is no need to stop as long as you drink in moderation and responsibly. Moderation is considered two alcohol units for males and one alcohol unit for females and small males. A unit of alcohol is 1 tot of hard tac (whiskey, vodka, brandy etc.), 150ml wine or 360ml beer.
- It Can Lower Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Over 100 prospective studies have shown an inverse relationship between moderate alcohol drinking and risk of heart attack, ischemic stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes. Results from these studies correspond to a 25 to 40 percent reduction in risk. Moderate amounts of alcohol raise levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and higher HDL levels are associated with greater protection against heart disease. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been linked with beneficial changes ranging from 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. This finding is applicable to both men and women who have not been previously diagnosed with any type of cardiovascular disease.
- It may provide social and psychological benefits
A drink before a meal can improve digestion or the occasional drink with friends can also be a social tonic. These physical and psychological effects of modest alcohol drinking may contribute to health and well-being. A literature review was conducted and summarized the positive psychological benefits of light and moderate alcohol consumption:
- Alcohol in moderate amounts is effective in reducing stress
- Increases overall affective expression, happiness, euphoria, conviviality and pleasant and carefree feelings
- Tension, depression and self-consciousness have been reported to decrease
- Low alcohol doses have been found to improve certain types of cognitive performance, including problem-solving and short-term memory
- It Can Lengthen Your Life
A study by the Catholic University of Campobasso reported that drinking less than four or two drinks per day for men and women respectively could reduce the risk of death by 18 percent. An author of the study said that drinking small amounts of alcohol, preferably during meals, appears to be the right way to drink alcohol. This is a key feature of the Mediterranean diet, where alcohol, particularly wine, is the ideal partner of a dinner or lunch, but then the remainder of the day must be absolutely alcohol-free.
- It Can Improve Your Libido
Research has found that moderate alcohol drinking might actually protect against erectile dysfunction in the same way that drinking red wine might benefit heart disease. In a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that the chances of erectile dysfunction were reduced by 25 to 30 percent among alcohol drinkers. The study was conducted with 1,770 Australian men by the University of West Australia. It was however emphasized that the research team in no way are advising men to drink alcohol and that further research is needed to accurately connect impotence and alcohol consumption.
- It Helps Prevent Against the Common Cold
A study found that while susceptibility to the common cold was increased by smoking, moderate alcohol consumption led to a decrease in common cold cases for non-smokers. This study was conducted in 1993 with 391 adults by The Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. According to research conducted in 2002, it was found that by drinking 8 to 14 glasses of wine per week, particularly red wine, there was a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing a cold. The results most likely have something to do with the antioxidant properties of wine.
- It Can Decrease Chances of Developing Dementia
The Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment published a study that included more than 365,000 participants since 1977 and found that moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Co-author of this study, Edward J. Neafsey, said that “Small amounts of alcohol might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia. Although we don’t recommend that non-drinkers start drinking, but moderate drinking, if it is truly moderate, can be beneficial.”
- It Can Reduce the Risk of Gallstones
According to researchers at the University of East Anglia, drinking two units of alcohol per day can reduce the risk of gallstones by one-third. Researchers emphasized that their findings show the benefits of moderate alcohol intake but stress that excessive alcohol intake can cause health problems.
- Lowers the risk of Diabetes
A study conducted in Holland showed that healthy adults who drink modest amounts of alcohol, one to two glasses per day, have a decreased chance of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who don’t drink at all. “The results of the investigation show that moderate alcohol consumption can play a part in a healthy lifestyle to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes type 2,” said the researchers.
by – Megan Lee