What are the benefits of drinking alcohol?

22September 2020

the benefits of drinking alcohol


What are the benefits of drinking alcohol?

We’ve heard it all many times over about the dangers of alcohol consumption, and there are plenty, but what are the benefits of drinking alcohol, and is it worth it?

According to research, there are a number of benefits to drinking a moderate amount of alcohol. A moderate amounts being in the region of one alcoholic drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men. This doesn’t mean an average, i.e. saving them all up for Saturday night and binge drinking the lot in one session, but per day.

The UK guidelines on sensible drinking levels is 14 units per week for both men and women spread over 3 or 4 days with a number of dry days in between.

According to the DrinkAware website then that looks something like 6 pints of regular strength beer or 6-medium glasses of wine per week.

And, according to research by numerous institutes throughout the world, experts agree that there are some benefits to drinking alcohol at that level (if you can manage to stick to it).

Here are 5 of them…

1-Longer life.

Studies have shown that drinking small amounts of alcohol (particularly wine) each day can increase life expectancy. However, the studies also suggest that the drink should be sipped slowly with a meal and then no other alcohol during the day. Plus the research is also linked to the Mediterranean diet and way of life, so other factors could be at play including well-known health boosting foods such as olive oil, seafood, tomatoes and olives for example.

2-Decreased chance of dementia.

The journal of Neuro-psychiatric Disease and Treatment has studied a large group of people since 1977. The reports are that very moderate drinkers appeared to suffer 23% less dementia than non-drinkers. Popular thought behind it appears to be that very moderate amounts of alcohol consumed daily toughens up the cells so that they become more robust later on in life.

3-Reduces the risk of gallstones.

According to the university of East Anglia, 2-units (UK units) of alcohol per day offered a one third reduction in the chance of developing gallstones.

4-Lowers the chance of diabetes.

Studies have also shown that one to two glasses of alcohol per day decreases the risk of developing type-2 diabetes as compared to those who don’t drink at all.

5-Prevention against the common cold.

Consuming small amounts of alcohol per day (particularly wine) has shown to offer some protection against the common cold in non-smokers. It’s a well-known fact the smoking increases your susceptibility to colds and coughs. However, in non-smokers it’s believed that a certain amount of protection comes from the antioxidant properties in the wine, especially red wine, which is also reported benefit the heart.

five ways alcohol is not beneficial

Five ways drinking alcohol is not so beneficial.

So we’ve looked at 5 researched benefits of drinking alcohol, which appear to be pretty impressive!

However, gaining all these health benefits relies heavily on you remaining a moderate drinker throughout your life. The definition of moderate drinking being between 1 and 2 drinks per day, preferably with non-alcohol days in between.

If you can stick to that then all is well and I’m sure you’ll live a long, happy and healthy life. Maybe even ending up like one of those Greek or Italian men or women off the olive oil adverts who grin like a toothless prune but live happily beyond 100 years old.

But irrespective of whether your life ambition is to live longer than your offspring it might be helpful to counter the above with 5 reasons why drinking alcohol is not that good for you, because to be honest I don’t know many people these days who can keep to the definition of moderate drinking throughout their life.

It was a different time 50 or 60 years ago when alcohol was purchased in a specialist shop called an off-licence, or from the outdoor sales hatch of your local pub. You had to make an effort to go and buy it, and because the shops were run by local people, everybody knew your business.

These days alcohol is freely available anywhere and stacked up high to be purchased in large quantities. And if you simply can’t be bothered throwing it into your shopping trolley along with your Greek feta, peppery rocket, and wasabi nuts then with a few clicks of a keyboard you can have it dropped at your door in plain packaging, no questions asked!

So if your not a moderate drinker, here are 5 reasons why you should consider cutting back or quitting alcohol completely.

1- It seriously damages your liver.

According to a study in the Journal of Hepatology 2018, if you started drinking in your teens then it is highly likely you will suffer some form of liver damage later in life.

The job of the liver is to break down harmful substances in the body. Alcohol prevents the liver from doing this efficiently. Long-term regular alcohol use can lead to diseases such as liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes the tissue of the liver to scar, rendering it unable to rid the body of toxic substances. Eventually the toxins build up and damage tissue and organs.

2- It increases the risk of cancer developing.

Alcohol consumption contributes to many types of cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, disturbingly, women who drink more than three drinks a day are 1.5 times more likely to develop breast cancer. For all people, the chances of contracting mouth and throat cancers rise significantly when more than 3.5 alcoholic drinks are consumed daily. This can include cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx.

And according to Cancer Research UK, the highest risk is from developing liver cancer.

3- Alcohol upsets prescription medication.

If you drink alcohol while taking prescription medication it can have a dangerous effect on your body.

Antibiotics can become pretty much useless and other complications may set in such as increased heart rate and dizzy spells. When taken with psychiatric medications the side affects can be increased dramatically causing a rise in blood pressure and drowsiness. When mixed with prescription painkillers’ alcohol can slow down breathing to dangerous or even fatal levels.

You should always consult your doctor over any prescription issued and the possible affects of drinking alcohol.

4- Alcohol badly upsets your sleep pattern.

We all know that drinking alcohol before bed sends you straight off to sleep. What we don’t realise is that once the alcohol starts to wear off during the night, your REM pattern gets disturbed. This can lead to nightmares, sweating and anxiety.

A disturbed REM pattern also affects how you feel the next day, so even if you don’t have a hangover in the morning, you’re not performing at your most efficient as the normal REM cycle contributes to good memory and concentration.

Additionally a 2011 research study found that women suffer greater detrimental affects on their sleep than men after drinking alcohol before bed time.

Compared to the male participants who drank the same amount, women tossed and turned more often and lay awake for longer. This resulted in far less sleep which can have a very negative effect on a person’s quality of life, including increased risk of stress, anxiety and disease.

5- Your face swells up.

There’s not many people who can say they look their best after a night on the drink. This is because alcohol causes bloating and inflammation in the body, which can lead to red eyes or a puffy face.

Alcohol is a raging diuretic causing your liver to frantically try to flush it out by expelling water and causing dehydration. Eventually though, all that dehydration can cause your body to react the other way by holding on to water weight leading to the bloated puffy look. Not the greatest look for the office meeting the next morning.

And if you find that you go red after drinking then you could have an alcohol intolerance.

Neither the pros or cons of drinking alcohol are an exhaustive list. Some people find far more social benefits in drinking alcohol, and that’s fine. Subsequently, there a far more ailments and social issues connected to excessive drinking than listed here.

It’s down to the individual to decide what’s right for them, nobody can decide somebody else’s life choices.

However, if you feel that alcohol consumption is taking over your life, or you’re worried about your health then help is out their.

Try talking to your doctor or research some of the many charitable organisations for confidential and free advice.

In the UK we are fortunate to have many such resources including Change, Grow, LiveAlcoholics AnonymousAl Anon

This is only a small selection, there are many more organisations and helplines out there with a simple search online.

If you wish to ask a question or leave advice for others, please feel free to comment below.


Further Reading

World-renowned Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology David Nutt breaks down the science and effect of alcohol on our health, mood, sleep and productivity and how it travels through our bodies and brains and explains on a practical level how we can make changes to positively impact our relationship with it and understanding of it, thereby improving our quality of life for the long-term.

He examines what the future holds for this normalised drug that governs our society and lives but is becoming increasingly unpopular due to its detrimental impact on our well-being. Drink? will do what Matthew Walker did for sleep, and Giulia Enders did for our Gut, and help us make informed choices, at the very least. David will illuminate our minds on this important and timely subject.

>>> View an example of Professor David Nutt’s powerful insights, or listen to the audible on Amazon <<<

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