Just recently I went back in my hometown just outside of Chicago to celebrate the marriage of my older brother Jeremy to his beautiful bride Amelia. We all lifted our glasses to toast the new bride and groom and took a sip of wine to the soundtrack of cheers and shouts of joy. As much as I would like to continue on talking about my brother, the gorgeous wedding they put on, and the moves that were busted out on the dance floor that night, I am going to change gears and head towards what is in those glasses that we raised and the benefits they can provide.
Moderate drinking defined. Most of us have heard that drinking moderately can be linked to improved health. But what does moderate drinking mean? It translates into no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women per day and a drink counts as a 5 fl oz glass of wine, a 1.5 fl oz of 80 proof distilled spirits, or 12 fl oz of beer. That doesn’t mean that you can save up all your drinks during the work week and expend them all on the weekend either and reap any of the health benefits.
Health benefits. So here’s the run down on the beneficial effects of alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, colon and prostate cancer, and even increases the length of your life. Sounds like a pretty good trade off for enjoying nice adult beverage every so often. You may be skeptical and wonder how exactly can alcohol do these things? Let me tell you, but keep in mind, too much of a good thing in this case can be a bad thing and the mere dosage can turn a tonic into a toxic for your health.
Polyphenols are helpful. The flavor compounds found in red wine called polyphenols are where many of the benefits of wine lie. These actually decrease the production of a protein, called endothelin, which builds up the lining of blood vessels. This thickening of the blood vessels leads to atherosclerosis and promotes coronary heart disease. So, in other words, decreasing this protein decreases risk of disease. The polyphenols in red wine specifically also act as antioxidants, reducing LDL (bad cholesterol) oxidation which further protects your arteries.
Decreased risk of heart disease. Inflammation is also a hugely detrimental factor in heart health and red wine just so happens to not only be an anti-inflammatory, but also has the ability to increase HDL or the healthy cholesterol. Red wine, or any type of alcohol, also has a blood thinning effect and prevents platelet aggregation reducing the risk of clots and ultimately stroke. Overall, study after study reinforces that the risk of coronary heart disease drops about 30-50% with moderate (emphasis on moderate) alcohol consumption.
Benefits beyond heart health. Other than heart disease, studies are now showing that moderate drinking can lead to an over all decreased risk of mortality, Type 2 Diabetes, gall stones, and potentially even Alzheimer’s when red wine is consumed. The risk of certain cancers, specifically colon, prostate, and potentially even lung cancers also go down with alcohol consumption according to recent studies, especially when the alcohol is red wine.
Relax and enjoy. Alcohol can be a good way to relax and socialize. Those who are moderate drinkers are also more likely to have a healthy weight status, exercise regularly, and achieve at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night according to the 1985 Health Interview Survey. These are all key factors in achieving reduced stress which can increase length of life. Finally, enjoying a glass of wine with a meal may help one eat more slowly, enjoy the flavors of the food, improve digestion, socialize, and unwind.
Your doctor is the best source. The research and effects of moderate drinking does not mean it is recommended people should start drinking if they do not already. Remember, excessive alcohol intake can have a detrimental effect on health and relationships so keep it moderate to achieve health benefits. Please keep in mind that alcohol is not for everyone as individuals may react differently based on age, health condition, medication, or any other circumstance such as pregnancy. Check with your doctor to see if enjoying a glass of wine would work for you.
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