The Facts About Drinking for Your HealthSubmitted by SharpHealth Team on Monday 11th October 2010
- Is it true that alcohol may actually have some health benefits?
- How do these potential benefits weigh against the risks?
- How much (or how little) should you drink?
You’ve heard the stories. A drink a day can be beneficial to your health. The question is, what kind of drink? How big is that "one" allowed to be? And what of the competing health risks associated with drinking, including cancers of the mouth and throat, obesity and cirrhosis?
It’s a sticky question, and one that has doctors wringing their hands. The following SharpHealth piece lays out the facts for drinking (and non-drinking) SharpMen everywhere:
Recent studies indicate that moderate drinking can have some health benefits, including a decreased risk of heart disease. Some studies indicate that moderate drinking may even be more beneficial than abstaining from alcohol, which was long thought to be the healthiest way to go. But the key here is moderation; for guidelines, keep reading.
On the other hand, excessive drinking and alcoholism contribute to some 100,000 deaths each year, and are the most "preventable" causes of death next to cigarette smoking. Especially when combined with smoking, alcohol can significantly increase your risk for contracting cancer of the mouth, larynx and esophagus.
Risks for SharpWomen are more serious, because studies suggest that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol increase their risk of dying from breast cancer by 30%. For this reason, women with a family history of breast cancer or other high-risk factors may not benefit from the moderate drinking plan after all.
How much is too much?
Studies vary slightly in their definition of "moderate" drinking, but the desirable range seems to be 4-6 drinks per week, or one drink per day (depending on the study). A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and only 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Note that health benefits can be wiped out if you drink as many as two drinks per day, depending on the study.
Not a drinker? Start now!
Some of the benefits of red wine may also be found in purple grape juice, so if you can’t or shouldn’t drink alcohol, cheer up. Buy a bottle of purple grape juice instead and toast to your health.
Of course, doctors do not generally advise patients to take up drinking in order to receive the health benefits described in these studies. Your best bet, as usual, is to talk to your physician about what’s best for you. If you enjoy "unwinding" with a glass of wine at the end of the day and aren’t tempted to drink more, you are probably in good shape.
For more information about excessive drinking, alcoholism and details about guidelines for alcohol intake, consult http://www.ncadd.org.This article last updated on Monday 11th October 2010