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Is Moderate Alcohol Consumption Good For You?

September 13, 2018
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It’s probably not what you want to hear, but the short answer is NO. And it gets worse from there!

“Responsible drinking” has become the modern day catch phrase for acceptable alcohol use. For years, even the medical community propagated the notion that “moderate” alcohol consumption was good for you, especially in reference to heart disease. However, recent studies have raised serious doubts that there are any health benefits of alcohol in any amount.

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch noted that alcohol is the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability. And for those aged 15-49, alcohol has been found to be the number one risk factor.

Alcohol is, at best, a double edged sword when it comes to cardiovascular (CV) disease. There is some weak evidence that a consistent low to moderate amount of red wine with dinner may have some positive effect. However, alcohol other than red wine, heavier drinking and binge drinking have profound negative effects leading to high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, strokes and heart failure. Overall, the negative effects of alcohol far outweigh any positive effects on CV disease.

Alcohol is causally related to cancer of the mouth, throat, colon, liver, breast and pancreas. It has also been linked to leukemia, multiple myeloma and cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, skin and possibly others. It is quite clear that with respect to cancer, there is no “safe” amount. This risk increases with the amount consumed, making even light drinking a risk.

Alcohol related brain damage (ARBD) is estimated to be the primary cause in 10% of early onset dementia and up to 24% of nursing home dementia patients. While alcohol can be the primary cause of cognitive impairment in some individuals, especially heavy drinkers, it likely contributes to cognitive decline in many more. Studies indicate that perhaps one drink a day may be safe, but after that, the risk rises with the amount.

If all of that isn’t enough, alcohol can ruin your sex life and make you fat!

Studies in both men and women have clearly documented increased sexual dysfunction with alcohol use. Even Shakespeare said “it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.” As Cenegenics physicians, we have all noted that our patients who drink alcohol more than occasionally have a much harder time achieving a good body composition. Not only are the calories in the alcoholic beverage a problem, alcohol is an appetite stimulant and lowers inhibitions leading to increased food intake, often of not the best foods. Studies as far back as 2004 confirm alcohol’s appetite stimulating effect showing increased food intake after alcohol consumption as well as a correlation between alcohol intake and body weight.

The bottom line is that there is no good evidence that alcohol in any amount is beneficial in any way. It has become increasingly clear that drinking habits considered by many, or even most, as “normal” have adverse health consequences. As intake increases, so does the risk to health.

Alcohol is so ingrained in our culture that for many, the idea of not drinking seems ludicrous. However, eliminating or limiting alcohol intake can reap many benefits. So what is a reasonable approach to limit alcohol consumption if you do drink?

  • Limit alcohol to 20g daily for men and 15g daily for women (1.5 drinks for men and 1 drink for women) or less.
  • Take a few days off. Not drinking for several days each week will also help you lose weight.
  • Avoid binge drinking. This is especially harmful.

If you find that you can’t stop or reduce your alcohol consumption, it may be time to seek professional help. Talk to your doctor for advice.

My advice? Reduce or eliminate alcohol to live longer, look better and have better sex! That sounds like a win-win-win to me!

Also see: Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

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Posted in Blog, Medical News by admin