10 Surprising Health Benefits Of Alcohol
Some drink to celebrate, others to drown their sorrows. Some to beat boredom, others to fit into a social group. How about alcohol for good health? Sounds incredulous? Well, there are decades of research to back the many health benefits of alcohol. The catchword here is moderation. That is, one drink a day for women and not more than two daily drinks for men. Alcohol within limits, says Ayurveda, is similar to nectar but in excess, it can lead to ailments. And it doesn’t really matter what you drink (wine, beer, vodka, scotch, take your pick), as long as you consume it sensibly. There’s no point in abstaining all week and then binge drinking on the weekends. Scientific research proves that there are indeed health benefits associated with having a drink or two every day. For those who know how to drink smart, alcohol can actually be good for health. Let’s look at 10 surprising benefits of drinking in moderation: 1. Heart worthy A drink a day can keep the cardiologist away! Studies show that moderate intake of alcohol raises the levels of HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol, which in turn offers greater protection against cardiac diseases. In other words, moderate drinkers are actually at a lower risk of having a heart attack, stroke, sudden cardiac death, peripheral vascular disease, and cardiovascular-related death. This applies to both male and female drinkers who do not already suffer from a heart ailment or type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Traditionally, red wine is considered to be the most heart-healthy drink. However, the natural antioxidants in beer also offer protection against heart disease and lower the risk of hypertension. Now, that calls for a drink, doesn’t it? 2. Matters of the mind There are quite a few studies that establish a correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. Ethanol, the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, is known to help the neurons in the brain fight age-related wear and tear. Researchers believe that alcohol in moderation stresses the brain cells and strengthens them up to cope with major traumas later in life that could cause dementia. An interesting study found that older individuals who engaged in light drinking had higher episodic memory. That is, they could easily remember events, despite their old age. Also, with the rise in HDL, or the ‘good’ cholesterol, the blood flow to the brain is augmented. This, in turn, ensures optimal brain function. So, let’s raise a toast to the brainy benefits! 3. Sweet payback You can have your drink and the dessert too! Studies show that moderate drinkers have up to 30% fewer chances of developing type 2 diabetes as compared to non-drinkers. Wondering how? Alcohol is known to improve insulin sensitivity. That means, with a small dose of alcohol in your system, it’s easier for your body to process glucose, thereby reducing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. Naturally, this helps keep diabetes at bay, unless you have genetic factors that work against you. As far as the choice of alcohol is concerned, drink what you please – but always in moderation. How about some cocktail with dinner? 4. Fear no stone Another benefit of the increase in ‘good’ cholesterol in your body, courtesy the alcohol, is the reduced risk of gallstones. Those hard deposits that form inside the gallbladder, generally made up of hardened cholesterol, can be awfully painful. All you need to do to avoid that pain is add a glass of alcohol to your daily diet. Sounds too good to be true? There are studies that show regular alcohol consumption of one to two drinks a day reduces the risk of developing gallstones by one-third. Similarly, the risk of developing kidney stones can also be reduced by as much as 40%, say, experts, if you chug the right amount of beer on a regular basis. Given that dehydration often causes kidney stones, the high water content in beer is said to aid the healthy functioning of the kidneys. Moreover, beer is a diuretic, helping you flush out your bladder and kidneys. Whoever said staying healthy can’t be fun! 5. Bye-bye cold Nobody likes to go about the day with a runny or stuffy nose. Prevention is certainly better than cure, in this case. An interesting study suggests that drinking eight to 14 glasses of wine per week, especially red wine, could reduce your risk of developing a cold by about 60%. But what if you already have a cold? Well, warm beer is known to be an excellent remedy for cold. It not only improves blood circulation but also boosts immunity. There seems to be a cure for common cold, after all! 6. Long & strong The Mediterranean diet is often touted as the healthiest. Ever wondered why? Perhaps, it has something to do with the glass of wine that accompanies the meal. Research shows that drinking less than four or two drinks per day for men and women, respectively, could reduce the risk of death by 18%. The secret to a long, healthy life, researchers speculate, could be drinking small amounts of alcohol, preferably during meals. It may not be a good idea to start drinking with breakfast, though. Better to wait until lunch or dinner time. 7. Fat check This one can be tricky. Believe it or not, alcohol can help fight excess fat in the body. In fact, there was even a published study that found women who had one or two drinks a day were less likely to gain weight than those who gave up on their favourite foods. This could be because the human body learns to metabolise alcohol differently over a period of time, in the case of moderate drinkers. That’s not how it works with alcoholics or occasional binge drinkers. Another reason, experts say, could be that those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol tend to eat less carbohydrate-rich foods. Similarly, what you mix with the drink makes a lot of difference. Best to have it neat, or on the rocks (that is, with ice cubes). Ditch the sugary fruit juice for a slimmer waistline. 8. Between the sheets We all know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and helps us do things that we may, perhaps, not in a sober state. Naturally, a drink or two can do a world of good for your sex life. But that’s not all. Research shows that the chances of erectile dysfunction can reduce by 25 to 30% among moderate drinkers. That said, impotence can be a serious medical issue, and it’s best to consult with a sexologist. In all other cases, a drink can actually help spice things up in the bedroom. 9. Skin deep The beer belly may or may not be a myth, but there are no doubts about the beauty benefits of beer. If you are a moderate beer drinker, smooth and supple skin is only a happy side-effect. The drink is also known to work wonders as a hair conditioner. Similarly, studies show that the anti-oxidants in wine can help fight signs of ageing. In other words, one or two glasses of wine a day can make your skin look a lot younger. Now, isn’t that a great alternative to those expensive beauty creams? 10. Stress factor A drink, at the end of a long day at work, can be the perfect antidote to stress. Even our ancestors recommended alcohol in moderation to relieve stress and ensure better sleep. The idea is not to drink alone, plonked in front of the television, hoping to escape from the harsh realities of life. But to catch up with friends and family to discuss the many perils of being alive, over an occasional drink. No matter what the excuse, always keep the quantity in check. Because there are absolutely no health benefits to a hangover. Word of caution Alcohol affects different bodies differently. One size doesn’t fit all. Two drinks a day may help cut down the risk of cardiac disease in a 50-year-old with no family history of heart ailments, while it may up the risk of cancer in a 30-year-old with a sedentary lifestyle. Studies have shown that too much of alcohol consumption can cause inflammation of the liver and lead to cirrhosis, a fatal disease. Excessive intake of alcohol can not only increase blood pressure and damage heart muscles but also increase the risk of developing cancer. Studies show that alcohol blocks the absorption of folate (a water-soluble B vitamin) and depletes the body’s stores. That, perhaps, explains how alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast, colon, and other cancers. A good way to counter this, experts suggest, is getting extra folate - or folic acid, the synthetic form of folate - by way of supplements, after consulting with your doctor. 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- Tags: Health