So which is it – is moderate drinking good or bad?
A team of researchers recently analyzed the association between alcohol consumption and genes associated with cardiovascular conditions and found that drinking alcohol — any amount — was associated with an increased risk of the disease.
The study, which was published last week in JAMA Network Open, examined genetic and medical data from nearly 400,000 people through the UK Biobank, a large research database in the UK that includes genetic, lifestyle and health available for public health research. information is included. The findings showed that low alcohol intake was also associated with a small increased risk of cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, but this risk increased sharply with heavy consumption.
It also suggested that the previously held theory that a moderate drinking of red wine may help reduce the risk of heart disease may not be so. Krishna Aragham said that individuals who are more likely to drink low to moderate amounts of alcohol also appear to be more health-minded than those who abstain from it – for example, smoking less, exercising more and eating healthier – All the factors that contribute to better heart health, said Krishna Aragham, study senior author and cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
He added that these other factors, such as diet and exercise, may “mediate that decreased risk” of cardiovascular issues attributed to low alcohol consumption. “Maybe it’s not the wine itself,” he said.
Even red wine, which is sometimes touted to be heart-healthy, doesn’t have substantial benefits.
Some research has suggested that resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins, especially in red grapes, may act like an antioxidant and contribute to heart health, but possibly not enough to have a meaningful effect. Is. Another study found that a person would have to drink at least 500 liters of red wine per day to get enough resveratrol to take advantage of it.
Given recent findings on alcohol consumption and heart disease risks, Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the recent study, said he would revise his recommendations for patients.
Hazen said that when his patients asked him about drinking in the past, he told them it’s fine in moderation and may even offer an advantage. “But now I think it was wrong,” he said, pointing to emerging research. “So for people who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, which is more than half of the people in my clinic on a daily basis, I’m going to recommend cutting down on alcohol.”
But cardiovascular health isn’t the only concern. Studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption to several types of cancer including Mouth and throat, voice box (or larynx), esophagus, colon and rectum.
Ernest Hawke, division chief of cancer prevention and population science at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said there is no specific way that alcohol can lead to cancer. “There are many different ways in which alcohol causes toxicity to cells, which is believed to lead to the development of cancer over time,” he said.
However, like other health issues, the role of alcohol in cancer can be difficult to assess because other factors, such as diet and exercise – or lack thereof – can also affect cancer risk. Hawk said that people who drink more are less likely to practice healthy lifestyles, so “it becomes difficult to understand the contribution of alcohol.”
Of course, it is no less surprising that excessive or prolonged alcohol consumption can cause problems.
For example, drinking this type of alcohol can cause significant damage to the liver. Initially, it can cause inflammation of the liver known as acute alcoholic hepatitis. But over time, it can lead to cirrhosis, which can lead to liver cancer, liver failure and death, said Jamil’ Wakim-Fleming, director of the Fatty Liver Disease Program at the Cleveland Clinic.
So, health experts say, it’s important for people to consider their health and personal history — genetics, age, gender — when deciding what and how much to drink, because alcohol affects everyone equally. does not affect. Young people’s brains continue to develop until their mid-20s. Older people often have underlying conditions and take medications. And women don’t produce as much of an alcohol-metabolizing enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which means alcohol is more toxic to them, Wakim-Fleming said.
Some doctors encourage people to limit their drinking, while others discourage it altogether. But for those 21 and older who decide to drink, health experts say pay close attention to quantity and concentration. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, one alcoholic beverage is equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or a shot — 1.5 ounces — of 80-proof liquor. , Federal health officials recommend that men limit their consumption to two drinks per day and women to one drink per day – more than that is considered excessive drinking.
“Know your body,” said Walkim-Fleming. “Decide for yourself what’s best for you and discuss it with your doctor.”
Looking at the research, Aragham, senior author of the recent study, said that medical professionals probably shouldn’t recommend that people drink to improve heart health, but that doesn’t mean everyone should be completely excluded from it. need to escape.
“It’s really just about being informed — knowing that the amount of dosage really matters,” he said.