Booze! Someone’s Got To Do It

by Paul Rogers on June 16, 2008

You won’t find many doctors telling you to start drinking if you don’t already. They’re terrified of creating alcoholics. The truth is, drinking in moderation — and that’s the gotcha — seems to have substantial benefits, from heart disease to bone strength and, possibly, for preventing rheumatoid arthritis.

The Bad Stuff First
Moderate drinking is regarded as two drinks a day for men and one drink for women. It’s a fine line considering all the risks . . . because alcohol is a carcinogen of some power. Forget a few suspect food additives, alcohol is a known or highly suspect carcinogen (cancer causer) of the mouth and throat, breast, liver, pancreas, colon and perhaps stomach. In a statistical sense, the risk starts at one drink a day, but bear in mind that your diet and physical activity habits can lower your risk as an individual — or increase it as the case may be. Get the picture?

In addition, too much alcohol just destroys your liver — cancer or no cancer — and your brain.

The Good Stuff – Heart Disease
Moderate drinking seems to reduce the risk of heart and artery disease. Quite a few studies show that non-drinkers and heavy drinkers tend to have more heart disease than low or moderate drinkers. Red wine seems to have its own special place in the risk-reduction hierarchy, and most of this is attributed to the red antioxidant called resveratrol in red wine — but it could be something else.

The Good Stuff – Bone Density
Moderate alcohol consumption improves bone density. There, I’ve said it. This one is a bit of a sleeper because no one wants to tell women to drink alcohol because of the well-studied relationship with breast cancer. Even one drink a day tends to raise the risk of breast cancer. But again, eat well and exercise and you might just reduce this to even — and you get some bone protection as well. I’m just speculating but it’s not an unreasonable speculation.

The paradox is that alcohol (ethanol) can have estrogenic effects, which is probably how it increases breast cancer risk. At the same time this may be how it increases bone density, especially in postmenopausal women. Moderate drinking seems to provide some bone density protection for men as well. The finer points and the consumption patterns are not that well understood, so watch for revisions of this information. And needless to say, too much booze can make you fall over. Don’t overdo it. Most fractures occur from falls. Again, red wine might just be the best bet if you do partake of the demon drink.

The Good Stuff – Rheumatoid Arthritis
This one is much more contentious because the evidence is not as good. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease that attacks the joints. Recent studies have provided some evidence that non-drinkers have more incidence of this disease — up to 50% more. It’s worth noting, although perhaps people with rheumatoid arthritis are inclined not to drink as much.

Summing Up
Boozing has risks, especially if you define boozing as more than one or two drinks a day. And for cancer, even this may be risky for some people, especially those with a family genetic component and poor lifestyle approach. 

If you eat lots of whole plant foods and exercise most days of the week you can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease (and diabetes). Moderate drinking has benefits that are worth knowing about as well. How you use that information is up to you.

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