We always read stuff in the news about all the stupid things people do when they’re drunk. But did you know that alcohol actually has some health benefits? Despite all the horrible things it does to your body, sometimes it can actually be good for you. Before discussing the upsides of alcohol, though, we need to make it clear that this is not an excuse to pour an entire bottle of wine down your throat, drive blind-drunk across town and kill an entire family with your car in the process. The key to reaping the advantages of booze is moderation, but even modest drinking can still result in damage to various organs. Below are seven ways alcohol is good for you.
Heart health- The antioxidants found in red wine are said to promote a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. People who are physically active and have at least one alcoholic beverage a week have a 50 percent lower chance of developing heart disease than someone who sits on their butt throwing back shots, watching court TV and fishing for the remote. In addition, the occasional drink may also improve your odds of surviving a heart attack. (Note: the same beneficial things in wine are also found in grapes and grape juice, so the fruity drinks are a good non-alcoholic alternative for sober folks).
Good cholesterol - Beer and wine can both increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). Going along with this, it can also help to prevent excess plaque build-up in your arteries. This can prevent hardening and clogging of said blood vessels (atherosclerosis), which relates back to point number one. We’ll drink to that. Just be wary of the empty calories that are in beer, especially darker brews. The lighter stuff won’t be so unkind to your midsection.
Arthritis - Alcohol can considerably lessen your chance of getting arthritis when you become old and wrinkly. However, booze is said to increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. So, while a glass of wine might prevent your bones from getting persistently achy, it can make them more prone to snapping like twigs. It’s a fine line to walk, but you know what might help?
Fibre- Being derived from grains, beer is actually an alright source of fibre. In fact, 500 millilitres (a little less than two cups) of beer can provide over a quarter of your necessary daily intake of fiber. Of course, too much fiber may lead to toilet trouble. Well, maybe not trouble, but at the very least it can lead to a lot of wasted toilet paper. You don’t want to blow your beer budget on TP.
Certain cancers- Yes, even the threat of relapse and death from certain cancers can be reduced with a few swills of wine. Specifically, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and kidney cancer are said to be positively affected by-and maybe even prevented by-a little of the red. If it means you can avoid the difficulty and hardship of chemotherapy, why wouldn’t you down the occasional glass of Cabernet?
Neurological conditions- According to a few studies, partaking in a little alcohol once in a while may help keep Uncle Alzheimer and strokes at bay. The proteins in the myelin sheaths that help guard the neurological pathways in the nervous system respond positively to the alcohol. Of course, too much alcohol has been linked to the death of brain cells, so once again, moderation is the key here.
Life saving- Well, it may only be able to save you in one very particular way. Should you happen to ingest antifreeze for whatever reason, marathon-chugging vodka or whiskey could honestly save your life. The alcohol works by cancelling out the dangerous effects of ethylene glycol, the main component in antifreeze. Seriously!
But there are risks in drinking too much alcohol! Most people who have alcohol-related health problems aren’t alcoholics. They're simply people who have regularly drunk more than the recommended levels for some years. 'Regularly' means drinking these a certain unacceptable volume every day or most days of the week. Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits risks damaging your health. There's no guaranteed safe level of drinking, but if you drink less than the recommended daily limits, the risks of harming your health are low. And it's certainly not only people who get drunk or binge drink who are at risk. Most people who regularly drink more than the recommends don't see any harmful effects at first. Alcohol’s hidden harms usually only emerge after a number of years. And by then, serious health problems can have developed. Liver problems, reduced fertility, high blood pressure, increased risk of various cancers and heart attack are some of the numerous harmful effects of regularly drinking more than the recommended levels. The effects of alcohol on your health will depend on how much you drink. The more you drink, the greater the health risks.
Drinkers can be divided into three risk categories:
Lower-risk drinkers • Increasing-risk drinkers• Higher-risk drinkers
Lower-risk drinkers- Lower-risk drinking means that you have a low risk of causing yourself future harm. However, drinking consistently within these limits is called "lower-risk" rather than "safe" because drinking alcohol is never completely safe. Even drinking less than this is not advisable in some circumstances. Drinking any alcohol can still be too much if you’re going to drive, operate machinery, swim or do strenuous physical activity. Pregnant women or women trying to conceive should not drink alcohol. When you drink, alcohol reaches your baby through the placenta. Too much exposure to alcohol can seriously affect your baby's development. If you're pregnant and choose to drink, do not drink more than 1 to 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week, and do not get drunk. This will minimise the risk to the baby. People who drink should aim to be in the lower-risk category to minimise the health risks.
Increasing-risk drinkers- Drinking at this level increases the risk of damaging your health. Alcohol affects all parts and systems of the body, and it can play a role in numerous medical conditions. If you're drinking at around these levels, your risk of developing a serious illness is higher than non-drinkers:
• Men are 1.8 to 2.5 times as likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat, and women are 1.2 to 1.7 times as likely.
• Women are 1.2 times as likely to get breast cancer.
• Men are twice as likely to develop liver cirrhosis, and women are 1.7 times as likely.
• Men are 1.8 times as likely to develop high blood pressure, and women are 1.3 times as likely.
If you're an increasing-risk drinker and you drink substantially more than the lower-risk limits, your risks will be even higher than those above.
At these levels of drinking, you may already have alcohol-related problems, such as fatigue or depression, weight gain, poor sleep and sexual problems. Whatever your age or sex, you’re probably in worse physical shape than you would be otherwise. Also, you could easily have higher blood pressure due to your drinking. Some people argue a lot when they drink, which can negatively affect their relationships with family and friends.
Higher-risk drinkers- If you’re in this group, you have an even higher risk of damaging your health compared with increasing-risk drinkers.
Again, alcohol affects the whole body and can play a role in numerous medical conditions. You have a much higher risk of developing alcohol-related health problems. Your body has probably suffered some damage already, even if you’re not yet aware of it.
Compared to non-drinkers, if you regularly drink above higher-risk levels:
•You could be 3 to 5 times more likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat.
•You could be 3 to 10 times more likely to develop liver cirrhosis.
•Men could have four times the risk of having high blood pressure, and women are at least twice as likely to develop it.
•You could be twice as likely to have an irregular heartbeat.
•Women are around 1.5 times as likely to get breast cancer.
The more you drink above the higher-risk threshold, the greater the risks. So, some of the health risks can be even higher than those above.
You’re likely to have the same problems as increasing-risk drinkers: feeling tired or depressed, or gaining extra weight. You may be sleeping poorly or having sexual problems. And, like increasing-risk drinkers but possibly more so, you’re likely to be in worse physical shape than you would be otherwise, whatever your age or sex. You could also have high blood pressure. At these levels, your drinking may make you argumentative, which might damage your relationships with family and friends.