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Alcohol Consumption - Risks and Benefits

Updated on December 1, 2019
Pamela99 profile image

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

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Is Moderate Alcohol Intake Healthy?

Drinking alcohol has been shown to be healthy if the drinking is strictly moderate. This is particularly true for patients with lung disease. Studies on alcohol consumption are sometimes difficult to assess because a patient must recall and truthfully report their drinking habits and any problems over the years.

Certainly, eating healthy, exercising, not smoking and getting quality sleep are more relevant as healthy lifestyle choices. Today’s scientists state no one should begin drinking alcohol expecting improved health.

An average alcoholic drinks contain 100-150 calories, so several drinks can cause weight gain.

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Moderate Alcohol Intake

“According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking is considered to be in the moderate or low-risk range for women at no more than three drinks on any one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it is no more than four drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week.”

These guidelines state a standard-size drink contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is equals:

  1. 12 ounce beer
  2. 5 ounce glass of wine
  3. 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
  4. 1.5 ounces (one shot) of 80-proof hard liquor.

One problem with keeping alcohol intake at a moderate level is a wine glass may hold up to 8 ounces, so at dinner you could easily have two glasses not realizing you are actually consuming the equivalent of three standard sized drinks.

Many people believe if they can drink without getting drunk, then all is well. Actually, an increase in tolerance may occur due to heavier drinking over time due and some people are just born with a higher tolerance.

However, research shows there are some benefits to moderate alcohol consumption, which include:

  1. The risk of developing and dying from heart disease is reduced
  2. Moderate drinking may reduce the risk of ischemic stroke
  3. Reduced risk of diabetes

How Much Wine is Okay?

Asthmatic Patients Medical Studies

There have been numerous studies on the effect of alcohol with lung disease that began as early as 1947. Intravenous (IV) alcohol (five percent ethanol) was given to children for the treatment of severe asthma who had been unresponsive to all conventional treatments. Six children were tested and five of them improved. There were no adverse effects, and it was determined that pure alcohol acted as a bronchodilator.

Further studies over many years have been conducted with a large number of patients. Inflammation is a key factor in COPD patients. These patients have a higher level of macrophages, which are involved in this inflammatory process. They stimulate chemicals called interleukins that contribute to lung damage.

Red wine contains resveratrol that has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Resveratrol is a compound found in red fruits, such as grapes, which is beneficial to the lungs but not easily absorbed, yet it cuts the production of interleukin in half.

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Sulfites

Wine, beer and cheese each contain some sulfites. The Romans used sulfites in wine over 2000 years ago to extend its shelf life. Sulfites are also on dried fruits because they extend the shelf life.

Sulfites are not a problem to most people, but about 1% of the people are sulfite-sensitive. The allergic symptoms include nasal congestion, runny nose, skin rash, itchy throat, lung congestion and hives. White wine has a higher number of sulfites than red wine.

Possible Vascular Health Benefits

There are some studies that concluded red wines and most alcoholic drinks consumed in moderation have vascular benefits. A 25-40% decrease in vascular damage was found in one large study with moderate drinking.

Again, red wine’s resveratrol has been found to significantly decrease ischemic cardiac and cerebrovascular events and it lessens mortality.

"Always do sober what you said you'd do when you were drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut!”

— Ernest Hemingway

Possible Effects of Over Indulgence

Overindulging in alcohol can cause damage to the heart, liver and to the nervous system. The most common problems are memory loss and sexual dysfunction. Several large studies followed women who drank from 2-5 drinks daily, and one study showed a 41% rise in women for breast cancer.

Over 6 million Americans were classified as binge drinkers in 2014. This means they are drinking 5 or more drinks on at least one day a month and heavy alcohol drinkers have 5 or more drinks more than once a month. In 2015, more than 10,000 people died in automobile accidents related to alcohol. People with a history of alcoholism in their family must be especially careful.

Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain

Serious Health Problems Related to Drinking

Binge drinking is defined by 5 or more drinks for men and four or more for women. Several health problems may occur with excessive alcohol consumption.

There are some cancers that are more common with a high alcohol intake, including cancers of the mouth and throat, esophagus, liver and breast cancer.

Other health problems with high alcohol consumption include:

  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy)
  • Sudden death with cardiovascular disease
  • Accidental death or serious injury
  • Brain damage or other problems in an unborn child
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (this can be deadly)
  • Suicide

There are times that alcohol should be avoided. For instance, a pregnant woman or someone trying to get pregnant should avoid alcohol.

Do not drink alcohol when:

  • You have been diagnosed with alcoholism or alcohol addiction
  • You have had a hemorrhagic stroke
  • With liver or pancreatic disease
  • When you have heart failure or when you have been told you have a weak heart
  • When you have been diagnosed with liver or pancreatic disease
  • When you take medications that may interact with alcohol (prescriptions or over-the-counter)

Final Thoughts

Moderate alcohol consumption in medical studies has not been consistent with regard to the amount of consumed alcohol. Some studies used 1 drink and others used 3-4 drinks daily. However, the latest consensus states 1 daily drink for women and 2 for men is moderate drinking.

It appears that if you drink responsibly on a moderate level, you will have no ill effects and possibly have improved health. If you do not have any negative effects to the moderate consumption of alcohol, then it is not necessary to quit drinking.

If you are over-indulging or notice associated health problems, then stop drinking or get some help to quit drinking if necessary. There are numerous alcohol rehabilitation programs and Alcoholics Anonymous is free while being ready to help.

Drinking Alcohol

Doe you drink alcohol at a moderate level?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby

Comments

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  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    24 hours ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi MG Singh, I don't think there is anything wrong with scoth wiskiey in moderation. I appreciate your comments.

  • emge profile image

    MG Singh 

    24 hours ago from Singapore

    Wonderful article with tons of information. However I like my scotch whiskey but not more than 2 pegs.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    31 hours ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Jason.I absolutely agree with you and I think moderation in all things is the best way to live. Our bodies do need that balance you mentioned.

    I appreciate your comments.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    37 hours ago

    You're welcome.

  • Nicoartz profile image

    Jason Nicolosi 

    41 hours ago from AZ

    Fantastic article. Very informative and helpful. It seems the risks of alcohol far out way the benefits. Alcohol can be a very dangerous drug when abused. However, so can cheeseburgers. When consuming anything we should be mindful of gluttony. Our bodies are delicate machines that need balance. Too much of this or too much of that and it tosses our bodies into malfunction mode.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    42 hours ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Maria, Alcoholism is certainly prevalent and I think having your students attend an open AA meeting is a good idea. I hope your teching year is going well.

    I appreciate your comments. Love and hugs.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    42 hours ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Alcoholism can occur in all walks of life. My students are assigned to attend an AA meeting to raise awareness of this disease process and to foster a nonjudgmental attitude.

    Your article is informative and comprehensive - great work, as usual.

    Love and hugs, Maria

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    44 hours ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, I think that the children could pick up a bad habit. I hope the parents would teach them of the dangers. Thank you for this comment.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    45 hours ago

    From a non-clinical standpoint there is the issue of passing a bad habit to the next generation. A person might be a good moderate drinker but their children, seeing it's okay and grow-up, could end up with a bad habit.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Robert, A moderate amount of alcohol has been debated over the years but I think the scientist agree more now. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Brenda, I am glad you found the report interesting. I think some wine is good from my research. I appreciate your comments.

  • Brenda Arledge profile image

    BRENDA ARLEDGE 

    2 days ago from Washington Court House

    This is an interesting article.

    I also love the quote by Ernest Hemingway. So true...one way to teach people to be careful of what they say.

    Alot of doctors will say it is bad...although i have heard wine is good.

    You did alot of documentation.

    Nice write.

  • Robert Sacchi profile image

    Robert Sacchi 

    2 days ago

    This is a balanced assessment on the question of moderate drinking. It's also good that you give an exact definition of moderate drinking.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    2 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ms Dora, I am glad you found this article informative. I appreciate your comments, as always.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    3 days ago from The Caribbean

    Thanks for this very informative lesson. I knew that moderation is the key, but I learned a lot more. Good research and good presentation.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    3 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Liz, I'm glad this article answered some questions for you. Your comments are appreciated.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    3 days ago from UK

    I have read your article with great interest, as I have often been confused by alcohol consumption guidance. I am a moderate drinker and have often wondered about the sulphite notice on bottles of wine. Now I understand why it's there.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Devika, I guess moderation in almost everything we drink or eat is probably a healthy choice. I am glad you found the article interesting. Thank you for your comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Ruby, Drinking a glass of wine is relaxing, so I understand having a glass before bed. I certainly appreciate your generous comments.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Jiberish, I am glad you are back and glad you liked this article. Your comments are appreciated. Happy Holidays to you!

  • jiberish profile image

    jiberish 

    6 days ago from florida

    Pamela, I have been gone for a long time, and now that i'm back I am so glad to see that you are still here. A fellow Jacksonian...I ove your great articles. Happy Holidays!!!!

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    6 days ago from Southern Illinois

    I was glad to learn that wine has some good benefits. I enjoy a glass of red wine. I don't like it with food. In the evening before retiring helps me to sleep. Great article with some good info. Thank you.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    6 days ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Alcohol consumption is not for everyone. I learned a lot from your hub. In moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Flourish, I do not think four drinks are moderate either. You haveI made a health choice for your life. There are a huge number of people abusing alcohol, and it not only hurts the abusing person, but it typically hurts family members as well.

    I appreciate your comments Have a great week!

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 

    7 days ago from USA

    Maybe I’m old fashioned but I cannot imagine that as many as four drinks each day is moderate. I don’t drink at all because it really doesn’t interest me. I’ve seen the terrible effects it can have on people and don’t need it. A lot of people have problems with alcohol but I won’t be one of them.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I wish the information was more consistent as well. I found so many different amounts of alcohol used in the studies, but I do think moderation is you drink is the safest. I appreciate your comments, Linda. Have a good week.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    7 days ago from British Columbia, Canada

    Thanks for sharing all of the information, Pamela. It's very useful.The variations in the recommendations about drinking alcohol are confusing. I wish the advice from different agencies was more consistent.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Linda, I didn't come across any other information. The focus was on vascular and lung inflammation. It was interesting to see that there were some benefits with moderate drinking. I appreciate your comments as always.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bronwen, I really liked that quote as well. I am glad you found the article interesting. Thank you for your comments.

  • Carb Diva profile image

    Linda Lum 

    7 days ago from Washington State, USA

    Pamela, an interesting and informative article. I actually didn't know that there were/could be benefits from drinking alcohol. The study about inflammation and people with lung problems was interesting. What about inflammation in other parts of the body?

  • BlossomSB profile image

    Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

    7 days ago from Victoria, Australia

    I love the Hemingway quote. Thank you for an interesting article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Clive, I agree. Thanks for your comments.

  • clivewilliams profile image

    Clive Williams 

    7 days ago from Jamaica

    Nothing is wrong with a little perk in the blood now and then.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Mel, I think you are fine with four beers. I guess our mates often balance out our rough edges. I appreciate your comments.

  • Mel Carriere profile image

    Mel Carriere 

    8 days ago from San Diego California

    I am happy to see that I fall within the guidelines. About four beers is all I can handle anymore, and I only indulge in that about twice weekly. I must confess, however, that if my darling wife did not keep me on the straight and narrow, my four beers might be a daily occurrence.

    Great, informative article.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Peggy, I actually thought the same thing as you until I did the research. Wine is enjoyable with a meal and I cannot drink it anymore due to the sulfites.

    Thank you for your comments, Peggy.

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    8 days ago from Houston, Texas

    I did not realize that there were more sulfites in white wine compared to red. For some reason I thought it was the reverse. This is an informative article, Pamela. We do enjoy drinking wine with our meals, particularly if we are hosting company.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Bill, Thanks giving was good, with laughter and not talk of politics. Haha I hope your Thanksgiving was good also. I appreciate you commenting.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    8 days ago from Olympia, WA

    Well I know quite a bit about over-consumption of alcohol. lol I hope you had a brilliant Thanksgiving, Pamela!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Louise, You described moderate or almost no drinking, so it may help you to have a beer or drink now and then. Your comments are appreciated and I hope you are enjoying your Sunday.

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    8 days ago from Norfolk, England

    I rarely drink. I may have half a pint of beer at the weekends, but this isn't often. I do like a gin and tonic sometimes too, but this is very occasional. I enjoyed reading your article. It was very informative.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Eric, I never heard of 2% beer but I remember 3% when I was growing up. Drunk with love sounds wonderful, so enjoy your wife.

    I usually enjoy eggnog at Christmas also. I appreciate your comments, my friend. Have a wonderful day, with much love, of course.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 days ago from Sunny Florida

    Hi Lorna, I did not know about the increase of binge drinking in the UK. I cannot drink wine due to the sulfites. I get congestion in my lungs due to Sjogren's disease.

    I was struck by the inconsistencies as to the exact amounts in moderate drinking, but I think the new consensus is probably safe. Thank you so much for your generous comments. Have a wonderful day, Lorna.

  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    8 days ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Very interesting. When I lived in New England you could get beer and cider with less than 2% Alcohol in them. A hold over I understand from when the alcohol was mainly used to decontaminate water.

    Clausthaler is delicious for when you just need some beer doing manly man stuff out in the heat.

    Texting and driving now causes more injuries that drunk driving??? I love the term "drunk with love". I certainly get intoxicated over my wife. I don't think at the moment we have any alcohol in the house. But I will set up some //eggnog// for Christmas.

  • Lorna Lamon profile image

    Lorna Lamon 

    8 days ago

    There has been an increase in binge drinking in the UK and I put it down to the fact that more people, in particular young people are drinking at home before they go out, resulting in them consuming more alcohol. I have an allergy to alcohol and as a result don't drink, however, I believe that moderation can have some benefits. Your article is both informative and full of good advice. I wasn't aware of the effect of sulfites - perhaps this would account for my own allergy. An excellent read Pamela and as always I have learned something new.

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