6 (Unexpected) Reasons Why Alcohol May Be Good For You
It’s official. Alcohol is good for you, but as with so many other things in life, there is a downside. Alcohol is only good for you in small quantities, but to sweeten the deal, you need to take a small quantity of alcohol every day to benefit.
As the Dietary Guidelines for Americans put it, a small quantity of alcohol is “… having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.”
Good news? Sure, but only if you are of the legal age to consume alcohol, and you don’t get wasted. The health benefits of alcohol depend on a regular, small intake, and one binge can undo all the good you may (unknowingly) have derived from having a beer every day. So drink sensibly, and rejoice in the fact that far from necessarily being bad, alcohol may be positively good for you- in moderation of course, and here is why…
Alcohol lowers the risk of heart disease
Recent findings by The School of Public Health at Harvard University suggest that a moderate alcohol intake increases the level of high density lipoprotein, or HDL, which is the good cholesterol that protects against heart disease. Moreover, the same study found other beneficial effects of a moderate alcohol intake, among which is an increased sensitivity to insulin, and a significant improvement in several factors that contribute to blood clotting, or in this case, the factors that inhibit the formation of potentially fatal blood clots.
As the authors of the study put it- “… such changes would tend to prevent the formation of small blood clots that can block arteries in the heart, neck, and brain, the ultimate cause of many heart attacks and the most common kind of stroke.”
Alcohol can help you live longer
Studies by the Catholic University of Campobasso indicate that an alcohol intake of two units for women, and four units for men reduces the overall risk of dying by up to 18%. One author of the study, Dr. Giovanni de Gaetano, says that the best way to get the most out of alcohol (preferably wine) , is to have some during meals, which is how most alcohol is consumed in the Mediterranean countries.
However, the downside is that the “rest of the day must be absolutely alcohol free”, since drinking more than the recommended number of units of alcohol per day constitutes excessive alcohol consumption, which destroys any possible health benefits.
Alcohol could improve libido
This finding should not be confused with sexual activity that goes with the uncontrolled loss of inhibition and self control during heavy drinking. Nonetheless, a 2009 study that is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, suggests that a moderate alcohol intake can benefit erectile dysfunction in much the same way that red wine benefits the heart.
The study that involved 1 770 Australian men found that the risk of developing erectile dysfunction was reduced by between 25-, and 30% in men that regularly consumed small quantities of alcohol. However, the lead investigator and author of the study, Kew-Kim Chew, an epidemiologist at the University of West Australia, goes to some lengths to warn men against excessive alcohol consumption, saying that the effect of this is more likely to the dreaded “brewers droop”, than an increased libido.
Chew also says that the study is not definitive, and that more research is needed to establish the link between impotence and excessive alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can keep common colds away
An unexpected health benefit of a moderate alcohol intake turns out to be that fact that it can reduce the chances of developing a common cold, but the bad news is that it does not apply to smokers, whose risk of developing colds is increased due to the effects of smoking. The study was performed by The Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, and involved 391 adults, which is perhaps not the ideal number of test subjects, since colds affect billions of people every year.
Nonetheless, during a similar study done in 2002, and which is reported in the New York Times, it was found by Spanish researchers that people who consumed between eight and fourteen glasses of wine per week had a 60% smaller risk of developing a cold. Although the report does not express a clear opinion on the mechanisms involved in reducing the risk(s) of catching colds, the known antioxidant properties of wine is suspected to be involved in some way.
Alcohol can prevent, or delay dementia
A study that started in 1977, and which included 365 000 test subjects, found that persons who regularly consumed small amounts of alcohol were 23% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s
disease, or other cognitive impairment. In the study, which is published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Edward J. Neafsey, Ph.D. says that small amounts of alcohol “… might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia.”
However, Neafsey points out that while a moderate alcohol intake has been shown to effective in delaying, or preventing the onset of cognitive impairment, the authors of study are in no way suggesting that non-drinkers should now feel free to start drinking, but only “…that moderate drinking — if it is truly moderate — can be beneficial.”
Alcohol can help to prevent diabetes
A Dutch study has shown that a moderate alcohol intake can help to reduce the likelihood of developing Type II diabetes, due to the fact that alcohol can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin in some people. However, the study also points out that a moderate alcohol intake alone is not enough, and that it must accompanied by an overall healthy lifestyle that includes not smoking, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and regular exercise.