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Alcohol Risks & Benefits: Is Moderation Ok?

 

Evaluating Alcohol Risks / Benefits

Evaluating Alcohol Risks / Benefits

 

 

“Beer is the cause and solution to all of life’s problems.”  ~Homer Simpson

 

 

 

 

Recently I was asked to comment on my medical recommendations on alcohol consumption.

How much is too much?  Is wine better than beer?

Read on to get the truth about the relative health risks and benefits to drinking….

 

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

Current research suggests a “healthy” level of alcohol consumption varies between men and women.  Men are recommended to drink no more than 1-2 drinks daily on average to minimize health problems related to alcohol.  For several reasons, often related to liver processing capabilities, women are recommended not to consume greater than 1 drink per day.

The above recommendations, like many “national guidelines, ” are too basic.  I believe many people become confused by these types of generalities so let me help sober my readers by bringing some more focus to the issue.

The guidelines DO NOT imply drinking alcohol improves health.

Studies do exist that purport better health with a glass of red wine daily and possibly, in completely healthy people, this may prove true. However, other studies have shown that one doesn’t need the alcohol aspect of the red wine but rather specific, grape related chemical compounds (one can consume without alcohol) and get the same benefit.  The same benefits are not necessarily true for Beer or liquor….

I can feel my readership dwindling already….hey I’m just the messenger…..but there’s more….

The guidelines also DO NOT apply to persons with existing health problems such as: heart burn, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, joint pain, gout, migraine headaches, allergies, high cholesterol or triglycerides.  In addition, insomnia, depression, and various mood disorders including anxiety are greatly exacerbated and sometimes caused by even light alcohol consumption.

As Shakespeare says, “Alcohol gives the will, but not the means….”

Clinical experience and research suggests alcohol routinely triggers erectile dysfunction in men of nearly all age….bummer.

In diabetic trials, studies have shown 1 soda or 1 beer weekly can affect blood sugars for the entire week!  Routine guidelines simply don’t address this type of issue and lead some to believe an occasional drink won’t have any lasting effects.

In my clinical experience, alcohol dramatically affects hypertension (high blood pressure).  Routine alcohol use triggers insulin release and weight gain culminating in a tendency towards elevated blood pressure.  I’ve routinely advised patients taking  blood pressure medications to eliminate alcohol consumption altogether.  Quite often, eliminating alcohol consumption often dramatically decreases the requirement for medications.

Lastly, anyone looking for maximal performance in athletic arenas or fields requiring stamina and mental focus, alcohol just doesn’t fit into the diet plan.

 

IS ONE TYPE OF ALCOHOL BETTER THAN OTHERS?

Wine > liquor > Beer

Beer has typically the highest carbohydrate concentrations which leads to higher spikes in blood sugar.  This will cause the most havoc for diabetics.  Beer also has a fairly low alcohol content which leads to higher volume consumption.  Higher consumption increases the total calories consumed.

More Carbs=more insulin=more weight gain=more diabetes=more heart attacks

 

FINAL THOUGHTS?

As a physician, I’m no prude.    I am not concerned about sporadic, occasional alcohol use.  I am concerned that widely reported “NORMAL or MODERATE” alcohol consumption guidelines may skew the appropriate perspective on these recommendations.  The general averages minimize the contribution alcohol has on the development and worsening of many very common physical ailments.

Hopefully readers understand alcohol consumption can and often does lead to chronic medical issues.

I’m interested in HEALTHY longevity for myself, my patients, and my readers.   I hope this sheds light on the reality of alcohol use and the value of “Average daily consumption statistics.”

I look forward to your feedback.

 

 

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Pam February 28, 2013, 9:32 am

    Not sure why I read this article because I do not drink alcohol. I could count on two hands the # of drinks I’ve had in my adult life. I have a couple of reasons why I don’t. 1) I don’t care for it. I find my stomach gets unhappy and the nearest restroom becomes a need. 2) Watching my alcoholic father destroy his body with it has been the biggest factor I’m sure. I have no desire to start something I am witnessing to be very hard to let go of. 3) My Christian beliefs play a big impact as well.

    Thank you for this article. It is a great reminder of why I don’t need alcohol in my life. I gave up soda’s and honestly, that was rough enough. But, I did it, and I’m not turning back.

    Besides my dad, I have another close person in my life who is alcohol dependent. I pray for these two people in my life all the time. I hope they can some day beat the beast that has taken control of their life.

    • William Curtis February 28, 2013, 4:04 pm

      Alcohol abuse raises another issue beyond basic responsible use. You described very personal and important reasons not to drink.

      Congrats on the soda habit!!

  • David Francis February 28, 2013, 10:13 am

    “More Carbs=more insulin=more weight gain=more diabetes=more heart attacks” Enough said in my opinion. Anything that pushes this equation toward the right should be avoided as much as possible.

    • William Curtis March 1, 2013, 11:57 am

      That’s my general take

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