Is alcohol healthy in anyway? It is the question many have been asking themselves. Others love alcohol but feel guilty because of their religious affiliation. The simple answer to the above question is yes. Alcohol can be very important for your health and this we will attempt to prove based on research. But don’t get excited too quick, “excess of anything they say is a disease”. The key is to know when not to exceed your boundary. Lets first begin by defining what exactly alcohol is.
What is alcohol?
An alcohol is a chemical compound containing an –OH functional group. Among the different types that exist, ethanol is the only alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. Ethanol is produced naturally through the fermentation of fruits, grains and other sources of sugar by yeast.
Alcoholic drinks are made up of alcohol and other components or nutrients and hence not all types of alcoholic drinks have equal benefits. Alcoholic drinks made from grapes such as wine or champaign are rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are micronutrients with antioxidant property, neuroprotective effects and the ability to promote memory, learning and cognitive functions.
Determining alcoholic content
Alcohol provides a lot of necessary benefits for the body. But, you can only take a certain amount of alcohol per day or per week in order to get all these necessary benefits. If you take more than the recommended 14 units per week, then you run the risk of developing serious illnesses or complications. Therefore, the key is to keep track on the quantity you drink. This can be achieved if you know the different ways in which alcoholic content is measured or expressed (units of alcohol measurement). It is good to also know what light, moderate or heavy drinking is all about. Learn more
Benefits of Alcoholic Drinks
Light to moderate drinking of alcohol provides lots of health benefits including:
- Lower the risk of heart failure (HF). A large study from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that light drinking (0.1-7 drinks/week) lowers the risk of heart failure (HF) while former drinkers, occasional drinkers or those who never drink alcohol at all had a higher risk of heart failure.
- Bitter alcoholic drinks aid digestion by stimulating the production of gastric juice and saliva. This is useful when you have digestive problems
- Whiskey, vodka, brandy, tequila, rum or gin have very little or no sugar at all. Therefore they do not affect blood sugar levels or weight gain significantly. Most vodka are also gluten free and good for individuals who are gluten-sensitive.
- Red wine contains antioxidants for the heart and may help reduce the risk of heart diseases. A glass of wine per day is very good for the heart according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
- It Helps clean damaged cells in the lungs and also inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells . This makes red wine very good for respiratory health.
- Low doses of wine improves the brain’s ability to eliminate waste and hence contribute to a healthy brain
- Red wine decreases blood clot formation
- Wine improves your gastrointestinal health by improving your stomach microbiome. Therefore wine is very good for the stomach.
- Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin or when the body is resistant to insulin. This eventually causes an increase in blood sugar. Red wine reduces the risk of heart diseases in people with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. Red wine has no adverse effect in people with type 2 diabetes but may rather have a preventive effect for people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The entire benefits discussed here are for light (less than 7 drinks per week) and moderate (less than 14 drinks per week) drinkers except otherwise stated. Secondly if you drink this stipulated amount, it is better not to stop. Stopping can instead cause more problems. High or heavy drinking (more than 14 units of alcohol per week) can lead to serious medical conditions.
However, let these benefits not cause you to start drinking. Remember that a healthy diet is more beneficial than drinking alcohol. Also, if you cannot handle or don’t like the effcts of alcohol on you, then don’t drink it. Some individuals such as people under the age of 18, pregnant women, women trying to get pregnant and individuals with certain diseases are not meant to take alcoholic drinks at all. Some medications also interact with alcohol and can cause serious problems. So never drink if you are under any medication. Lastly, do not drink and drive.
Tips for Safe and Healthy Drinking of Alcohol
To reap all the benefits from alcohol, there is way you need to approach drinking. But at the same time, there are things you must not do and things you need to always keep behind your mind.
Tips for safe and healthy drinking includes:
- Drink only lightly. Do not drink more than 14 units (or 100 g or 7 drinks) of pure alcohol per week.
- If you drink 14 units a week, then don’t drink in one day. Spread this over days (at least 3 days).
- Do not drink more than 1 unit of alcohol per hour. It takes your body on average 1 hour to process 1 unit of alcohol. Drink slowing while you enjoy the taste.
- To avoid being trapped in the use of alcoholic, make sure you have free days in a week where you do not drink.
- Drinking alcohol after a meal will slow down its absorption. Slower absorption means lessen effect. But on an empty stomach, it will be absorbed very rapidly into the blood stream and can easily harm you. So if you plan on drinking, then wait at least an hour after meal before you drink.
- Drink a glass of water before and after alcohol intake in order to dilute the effect of the alcoholic drink and to avoid dehydration. You can even drink water in between or along with the alcoholic drink depending on how much you are taking. This is very important if you are taking alcohol on an empty stomach or drinking heavily over a short period of time. Heavy drinkers need to drink a lot of water.
- Wine is the most beneficial type of alcoholic drink but make sure you take only one glass of wine per day if you have to.
- For digestion problems, take bitter alcoholic drinks
“Never take alcoholic drinks when you are on any form of medication. Alcohol interacts with medications and can lead to a severe misfortune.“
- Avoid alcoholic drinks if you have a liver disease, heart disease or pancreatic disease
- Never drink if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
- Do not start taking alcoholic drinks because you heard they have benefits. Rather adhere to a healthy diet. A healthy diet has far greater benefits.
- If you decide to drink, then stop drinking occasionally. Rather make sure you take in the required minimum every week.
- Never drink and drive
Disadvantages of Drinking Alcohol and theDanger of Alcohol Misuse
Now comes the bad news about drinking alcohol. After all not all that glitter is gold.
Alcohol misuse refers to the inability to stay away from alcohol or when you drink heavily. These scenarios will cause serious harm. The disadvantages of drinking alcohol or the danger of alcohol misuse includes the following:
- It has been firmly established and confirmed that moderate to heavy drinking causes cancer especially liver cancer, breast cancer, cancer of the mouth, throat, colon and rectum. Read more
- Drinking more than 12.5 units (or 100 g or 7 drinks) of pure alcohol per week is associated with premature death around your 40s.
- Alcohol consumption is linearly associated with a higher risk of stroke, coronary diseases (excluding myocardial infarction), heart failure, fatal hypertensive diseases, fatal aortic aneurysm. By linear relationship, we mean the more your consumption of alcoholic drink, the more your risk of developing these diseases.
- Alcohol relaxes the muscles (LES) that separate your stomach from esophagus and also increases the production of stomach acid. Relaxation of LES means stomach acid can easily reflux back into you esophagus. This can lead to serious heart burn.
- Heavy drinking will lead to nausea, vomiting and stomach ulcer
- Alcohol inhibits your stomach from absorbing some nutrients and proteins that are crucial for the smooth functioning of your body.
- Your intestine contains a barrier which regulates what kind of nutrient passes into the blood stream. Alcohol misuse causes this barrier to become leaky or permeable allowing not only important nutrients to go through but also allowing for toxins, pathogens and debris to pass into the blood stream. This can cause sickness, discomfort and severe pain to the individual involve.
- Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause serious deformity to your baby or even long term health risk such as brain damage.
- For men, it can affect the quality of your sperm and this can be problematic if you have fertility issues.
- Alcohol is a diuretic in that it forces your body to release more liquid through urination. This can lead to severe dehydration. Reason why as a heavy drinker you need to drink a lot of water.
- Alcohol misuse affects your thinking or judgment and body coordination. This can lead to fatal accident, unprotected sex that leads to a disease or unwanted pregnancy, harming someone and many other foolish things.
- Short term heavy drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning which will manifest as vomiting, fits (seizures) or falling unconscious.
Alcohol misuse may be treated through medication, counseling or detoxification. So talk to your doctor for help.
- The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that empowers youth and adults with factual information about drugs so they can make informed decisions and live drug-free. Be mindful of the fact that alcohol itself is a drug.
- Alcohol Change: Provides several tools such as alcohol unit calculator, Facts about alcohol drinking and interactive quiz to check your drinking.
- Alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT). It is a series of 10 comprehensive questions which helps you to determine your risk level for alcohol consumption and provides feedback on the need to change your alcohol drinking habit or not. To evaluate your alcoholic level, also see .
updated on April 27th, 2022