Research on alcohol has made news headlines countless times with articles either applauding or denouncing its benefits. But what’s the truth? Is alcohol good for you, actually?
Alcohol is a separate nutrient from carbs, fats or protein. It’s non-essential, meaning it provides calories, but your body does not need it to survive. When it comes to your health, the intent behind drinking alcohol matters, and knowing the facts can help you make an informed decision about any alcohol habits you have.
Here are three important things to know about alcohol.
1. How Alcohol Affects the Body
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, it becomes your body’s top priority. Since alcohol can’t be stored, your body will stop breaking down any other nutrients and metabolize the alcohol first:
- When you drink alcohol, it enters your bloodstream through your stomach.
- If there’s no food in your stomach, the alcohol will move to your intestines and be absorbed there.
- Then, it travels to your brain and slows down your body’s functions, reaction time, and ability to think clearly.
- Alcohol is also mainly metabolized by the liver.
2. There are Some Benefits of Alcohol (But…)
Research has shown there are some potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. It may reduce the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Ischemic stroke
What does “moderate” amount mean? That’s up to one drink per day for healthy women and men over age 65 and up to two drinks per day for men age 65 and younger.
However, eating healthy and getting enough exercise have much greater proven health benefits in these areas than alcohol consumption. And any degree of drinking alcohol presents some real concerns.
3. Drinking Alcohol Has Risks
While moderate drinking can offer some benefits, heavy drinking has none—and can actually do a lot of damage instead.
Heavy drinking means:
- More than three drinks per day or seven drink per week for women and for men over age 65
- Greater than four drinks per day or 14 drinks per week for men age 65 and younger
The level of drinking increases your risk of:
- Cancers of the breast, throat, mouth, esophagus, liver, and more
- High blood pressure
- Liver disease
- Heart muscle damage or sudden death in those with cardiovascular disease
Even moderate drinking can increase the risk of some cancers, including esophageal cancer.
Plus, drinking can outweigh any possible benefits completely if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, have a strong family history of alcoholism, pancreatic or liver disease, or heart failure. In these situations, you should always consult a medical professional before consuming alcohol.
There’s also a real risk of becoming dependent on alcohol if you start using it as a coping mechanism for life’s worries. In that case, it’s so important to turn to healthier forms of stress management—those without potential to become a life-altering addiction.
So, Is Alcohol Good for You?
Well, alcohol can have some potential health benefits—if consumed in a light to moderate manner. If you already drink lightly to moderately, take care of your body and have no health problems, alcohol can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.
But if you don’t already drink alcohol, there’s no reason to start in an attempt to reap greater health benefits. Any benefits you may get from moderate alcohol consumption can be even greater through just eating a healthy diet and having a more active lifestyle.