Alcohol is one of many things (like chocolate and coffee) that may be beneficial in small quantities but harmful in large amounts. Here is a link to an excellent article on the issues with alcohol as well as how to protect yourself and friends from driving under the influence. It is good to remember that alcohol which is broken down in the human body to acetaldehyde, a poison that is a close relative of formaldehyde.
What is moderate consumption? Guidelines say that is a maximum of 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men. The government’s viewpoint. How much alcohol is in a drink? The source of the alcohol would seem to matter. Red wine contains beneficial antioxidants* where many mixed drinks are loaded with sugar and artificial colors. Don’t think you can be good most of the time and then binge. Binge drinking can alter your DNA.
Benefits: Surprisingly, especially in older persons, moderate alcohol consumption seems to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, dementia and gallstones. And that is any alcoholic beverage, not just red wine. There is other useful information on this Mayo Clinic page. But how does it help? Improvements in cholesterol balance, insulin sensitivity and appetite may be partly responsible. But perhaps the alcohol-induced relaxation also offsets the damaging effects of the stress hormone, cortisol. Very low doses of alcohol help us sleep, but slightly higher amounts degrade the quality of sleep. As I point out in my book on heartburn, alcohol is anti-bacterial and so it reduces the likelihood of infection with the bacterium H. pylori that is a major cause of ulcers, gastritis and acid reflux. I also have to wonder if folks who are moderate drinkers also moderate about a lot of other factors that affect health.
Risks: It is less clear that the alcohol risk/benefit ratio works as favorably in younger persons. Also, a follow-up analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study conducted between 1980 & 2008, indicates that as few as 3-6 drinks per week may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. Study link. However, in 2017 a review of studies showed otherwise. STUDY.The increase in risk was 15%. To put that in perspective, in absolute numbers, a 15% increase means that 19 new cases would appear in 100,000 women. Though that is not a huge number, it is still a slight trend in the wrong direction. More noteworthy is the fact that breast cancer risk jumped substantially with consumption of 2 drinks a day or more. Alcohol also speeds the conversion of testosterone to estrogen so men need to be careful too. Alcohol can be hard on the heart. For one thing it depletes magnesium which is important for blood pressure health and heart rhythms. Conventionally produced wines have a high pesticide count, some glyphosate (the cancer causing chemical in Roundup) and sulphites. Old world European imported wine is less so and organic wine is best. A study found glyphosate in 19 of 20 beers tested.
And, at any age, an alcohol binge can result in alcohol poisoning (in excess shuts down parts of the brain that control breathing and heartbeat) and fatal lapses in good judgment. It is common knowledge that heavy drinkers risk liver disease, job loss, family trouble and divorce. It is not so well known that alcoholics also have increased risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, dementia, etc. According to the Centers for Disease control, excess alcohol is the 3rd leading cause of death in the US. (Note: they always forget to include prescription drug side effects which would be much higher on the list.)
Combining alcohol with prescription drugs can cause big trouble. Check for interactions.
Impact on the body: Alcohol depletes the body of essential nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin B1. Those deficiencies alone could account for a lot of the short and long term side effects that plague alcoholics. It also creates free radicals and is dehydrating. Those are things to keep in mind when fighting a hangover. See remedies blog. Looking for gluten-free–tequila, gin, sake or vodka.
Bottom line: Since 6 Americans die each day from alcohol poisoning, I don’t think I should encourage anyone to start drinking. But, history tells us that there is a reason alcohol has been recorded as long as humans have left an archeological trail. Just remember, MODERATION. If alcohol is interfering with your life, GET HELP! SAMHSA.gov is a good place to start. In the UK try Rehab 4 Alcoholism. It is a free and impartial helpline for people troubled with drug or alcohol issues. Tel: 0800 111 4108.
And obviously, drinking and driving is not only stupid, it shows a sociopathic disregard for fellow humans.
Bill Sardi recommends Myricetin for alcoholism. He says: “This polyphenol derived and extracted from the raisin tree blocks the GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) receptor on the surface of brain cells, interfering with the somnolent effects of alcohol and retraining brain cells via epigenetic imprinting to break the addictive craving for alcohol.”
* The resveratrol and other molecules in red wine have been credited with many amazing health benefits. The very best way to take advantage of those on a regular basis is in the balance with other age-reversing nutrients in Longevinex, formulated by Bill Sardi.
Book: Alcohol (Historical and social emphasis) by Janet Chrzan, PhD