Alcohol Consumption - Risks and Benefits
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.
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:
- 12 ounce beer
- 5 ounce glass of wine
- 8-9 ounces of malt liquor
- 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:
- The risk of developing and dying from heart disease is reduced
- Moderate drinking may reduce the risk of ischemic stroke
- 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.
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
- High blood pressure
- 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)
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)
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.
Doe you drink alcohol at a moderate level?
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