New headlines claim that a glass of wine or a pint of beer a day shortens your life. It's enough…
New headlines claim that a glass of wine or a pint of beer a day shortens your life. It’s enough to suppress thoughts on a festive drink or two at Christmas. But these conclusions are based on a partial picture of the alcohol crisis.
No one denies the fact that many people drink too much alcohol. The controversy is about whether even low consumption levels are safe. There is now good evidence that the risks to the benefits of alcohol are strongly influenced by the type of alcohol and how it is full.
However, many studies have not included these factors when making recommendations for safe alcohol consumption levels. So you can drink alcohol in a way that is safe or even beneficial?
The data seems to say “yes”. When drinking is spread over the week, death is for some reason lower than when the same amount of alcohol is full for only one or two days a week.
The way in which alcohol is consumed is that spikes in blood alcohol concentrations are far higher than binge drinking. Over a certain alcoholic concentration in the blood, the body breaks down the alcohol in ways that produce harmful molecules called free radicals that can damage the liver and be associated with increased risk of cancer.
But unfortunately, many alcohol studies are based on the total number consumed in a week – they do not differ between different patterns of drinking.
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Drinking a meal also has a major impact on the health effects of alcohol as food slows the emptying of the stomach, which lowers blood alcohol concentration. And when alcohol is consumed as part of a Mediterranean diet, it seems to have much less cancer than most other ways of consuming alcohol.
This can be explained, at least in part, by nutrients that occur at high levels in the Mediterranean diet, such as folates, which reduces the carcinogenic effects of alcohol.
It is now widely accepted that the health effects of an individual food or nutrient can only be evaluated in the context of the overall diet. But the understanding sometimes disappears when drawing up guidelines for alcohol consumption.
Drinking low amounts of wine is usually to reduce the risk of an early death more than not drinking or drinking other forms of alcohol.
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An alcoholic unit in wine that slowly fills with a meal results in lower blood alcohol concentrations than a Unit Unit as a single buzz of breath on empty stomach.
It is not yet clear whether the benefits of drinking wine – and especially red wine – are due to this more relaxed way of drinking or to the wine’s many antioxidants (substances that believe protecting cells from damage).
Some public health experts strongly believe that in order to prevent damage from addiction alcohol should be declared an addiction. However, when taken in measure, alcohol reduces cardiovascular disease, and possibly dementia. So it may be more appropriate to see alcohol as if it were a drug.
It would be strange to be prescribed a course of medicine without clarifying that only a few tablets should be taken every day – not everyone on a Friday night who would make an advantageous drug to an extremely harmful one.
Similar precautions must also be used to take advantage of alcohol.
Most nutrients, from saturated fats to many vitamins, have safe upper limits and exceed the limits can be harmful. These limits reflect the body’s ability to safely metabolize the nutrient. The dose makes poison.
Of course, some people, like pregnant women and people who produce high levels of the carcinogenic substance acetaldehyde should metabolize alcohol, avoid alcohol altogether.
Binge drinking is also rightly condemned as harmful. But current evidence suggests that for those who choose to drink, the benefits of moderate meal (Mediterranean wine, preferably) exceed the risks.