There’s so much controversy about alcohol. Is it always bad? How much is too much? Who is most at risk? Why do some people get addicted quickly while others seem to have no issues.
I won’t claim to have all the answers as there are lots of important nuances. But rather, the purpose of this article is to take a deep dive into the potential implications on one’s health and well-being.
That said…You may choose to avoid alcohol all together for religious or ethical reasons or some other reason. Maybe you have young children in the house…or perhaps loved ones who have drinking problems…or maybe you grew up around addicts and just don’t want the temptation. I respect all of those reasons. ALL of those should supersede any research about why or why not to drink alcohol, so if that’s you, stand firm!
First a bit of “alcohol basics”:
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), a serving depends on the percentage of alcohol in the drink…so the greater the percentage the less volume it takes to make a serving.1
Beer- 8-12 oz. (depending on the type…regular vs flavored malt, etc.)
Wine- 3-5 oz (again, depending on the type)
Liquor- 1.5 oz (vodka, whiskey, rum, etc.)
This is important to keep in mind because sometimes we consider whatever is in our cup as “one drink” but depending on the size of the cup and what is in it, “one drink” could be several servings.
What is considered moderate vs heavy drinking?
It’s also important to note, for the sake of being on the same page, the NIH defines moderate alcohol intake as 2 drinks or less/day for men and 1 drink/day for women. This is compared with heavy alcohol consumption which is 4 drinks on any day (or 14 or more in a week) for men, and 3 drinks on any day (or 7 or more in a week) for women.2
Research has shown without question that alcohol:
- Promotes bone loss (osteoporosis) and bone fractures3
- Destroys the liver promoting various types of liver diseases4
- Is associated with high blood pressure5
- Is a primary cause of aging6
- Hinders quality sleep7 (which causes a domino effect of other challenges…see here for more info on sleep)
- Systemic Dermatoses (skin legions)8
- Nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium9 and copper10 (which can lead to many other conditions)
But there’s a catch to all of this…the amount matters! Excessive alcohol intake has a significantly different result compared to lower intake.
Potential benefits of alcohol consumption in low to moderate doses:
A recent study showed that although excessive alcohol consumption was associated with lower bone mineral density (BMD), those who drank small amounts had a slightly higher BMD than those who completely abstained.3 This doesn’t necessarily mean that alcohol is health promoting for the bones but rather that there may be some systemic benefits to small doses.
There are several studies that indicate moderate amounts of alcohol can be helpful to the cardiovascular system. However, more recent studies seem to be indicating that less is better…in other words, although there may be some benefits, the potential challenges may not be worth it.11
Moderate amounts of alcohol has been found to trigger the release of endorphins and therefor can help you feel good and promote social bonding.12 In this same study, it compared the effect of alcohol to things like laughter, singing and dancing in terms of it’s feel-good effects.
There’s yet another caveat…
Quality matters…it could be argued that the best alcohol would be organic sulfite free red wine made from organic grapes and minimally processed. But the main take away is that just like with food, getting the best quality you can find is important. I have often found that some people are not sensitive to the substance itself as much as the things that are sprayed on, added as preservatives, or otherwise done in the processing of the substance.
What are the take-aways?
- All research indicates that heavy alcohol consumption is detrimental to a person’s health and has no benefits.
- If you’re not drinking for any reason, there’s no reason to start.
- If you think you may have a drinking problem, try fasting from all alcohol for 30 days. If this is not possible for you, I’d recommend seeking help right away.
- If you have any stubborn health challenge ranging from pre-diabetes to osteoporosis to insomnia, avoid all alcohol for at least 3-4 weeks and see if it improves.
- If you are otherwise healthy and want to have a drink on occasion, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Drink extra water before and afterward to stay hydrated.
- Avoid sugar before and after as you will likely be getting a good-sized dose of sugar in your drinking.
- Consume only organic and sulfite free alcohol if possible.
- Drinking in the early afternoon would be better than drinking late in the evening so your body has more time to process the alcohol before you go to bed. This will help reduce your risk of having sleep challenges.
I hope this was helpful for you. Feel free to share with friends and family!
As always, if you are challenged with any symptom of ill-health or dis-ease, we’d love to help you figure out what is going on and how you can restore optimal health for the long term! Call the clinic today to schedule your initial consultation. 269-204-6525.
1. Rethinking Drinking. National Institute of Health. https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/how-much-is-too-much/what-counts-as-a-drink/whats-a-standard-drink.aspx. Accessed June 23, 2023.
2. Alcohol’s Effect on Health. National Institute of Health.
3. Godos J, Giampieri F, Chisari E, et al. Alcohol Consumption, Bone Mineral Density, and Risk of Osteoporotic Fractures: A Dose–Response Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022. doi:10.3390/ijerph19031515
4. Subramaniyan V, Chakravarthi S, Jegasothy R, et al. Alcohol-associated liver disease: A review on its pathophysiology, diagnosis and drug therapy. Toxicol Reports. 2021. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2021.02.010
5. Husain K, Ansari RA, Ferder L. Alcohol-induced hypertension: Mechanism and prevention. World J Cardiol. 2014. doi:10.4330/wjc.v6.i5.245
6. Adamson SS, Brace LE, Kennedy BK. Alcohol and aging: From epidemiology to mechanism. Transl Med Aging. 2017. doi:10.1016/j.tma.2017.09.001
7. Britton A, Fat LN, Neligan A. The association between alcohol consumption and sleep disorders among older people in the general population. Sci Rep. 2020. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-62227-0
8. Bruno MCT de C, Vilela MAC, Oliveira CABM de. Study on dermatoses and their prevalence in groups of confirmed alcoholic individuals in comparison to a non-alcoholic group of individuals. An Bras Dermatol. 2013. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20131829
9. Vatsalya V, Gala KS, Mishra M, et al. Lower serum magnesium concentrations are associated with specific heavy drinking markers, pro-inflammatory response and early-stage alcohol-associated liver injury. Alcohol Alcohol. 2021. doi:10.1093/ALCALC/AGAA001
10. Shibazaki S, Uchiyama S, Tsuda K, Taniuchi N. Copper deficiency caused by excessive alcohol consumption. BMJ Case Rep. 2017. doi:10.1136/bcr-2017-220921
11. Chiva-blanch G, Badimon L. Benefits and risks of moderate alcohol consumption on cardiovascular disease: Current findings and controversies. Nutrients. 2020. doi:10.3390/nu12010108
12. Dunbar RIM, Launay J, Wlodarski R, et al. Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption. Adapt Hum Behav Physiol. 2017. doi:10.1007/s40750-016-0058-4
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.