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Alcohol The Nutrition Source Harvard T H. Chan School of Public Health

If you’re wondering whether you should cut back on your drinking, here’s what to know about when and how alcohol impacts your health. If you tend to drink excessively or notice that alcohol causes problems in your life, you should avoid it as much as possible. Some people become addicted to the effects of alcohol, a condition known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Studies suggest that light and moderate consumption of alcohol may cut the risk of premature death — especially in Western societies (66, 67). The cells lining your mouth and throat are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol. There are several possible reasons for the beneficial effects of drinking moderately.

  • So alcohol abuse can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions such as congestive heart failure.
  • So, you can imagine how lowering your risk for all three of these would extend your life span over the average American’s.
  • Moderate drinkers had the lowest risk but they also tended to have healthier lifestyles — with more exercise, less smoking, and higher vegetable consumption — that might explain the protective effect of moderate drinking on the heart.

But the health risks from drinking can come from moderate consumption as well. Even light alcohol consumption — up to one drink per day — is linked to a 20% increased risk of mouth and throat cancer (59, 60). While alcohol intoxication is only temporary, chronic alcohol abuse can impair brain function permanently. However, moderate drinking may have benefits for brain health — especially among older adults.

Does Drinking Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?

No amount of alcohol is safe, according to The Global Burden of Diseases study, which analyzed levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries from 1990 to 2016. A pre-existing condition could also interact with alcohol to affect your health. For example, “people who have hypertension probably should not drink or definitely drink at very, very low levels,” Dr. Piano said. Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice — a yellow tinge to the eyes or skin. However, symptoms rarely emerge until the liver has been severely damaged. Alcohol also creates oxidative stress, another form of DNA damage that can be particularly harmful to the cells that line blood vessels.

Whereas light or moderate alcohol consumption may be good for your heart, excessive drinking weakens the heart muscle and can prevent it from pumping blood properly. So alcohol abuse can lead to serious cardiovascular conditions such as congestive heart failure. According to the 2016 ​​Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, drinking was the seventh-leading risk factor worldwide for both death and disability. About a quarter of alcohol-related deaths are due to liver disease, a quarter to cancer, a quarter to high blood pressure, and a quarter to alcohol-related accidents and injuries. A 2017 study in BMJ called into question previously held beliefs that a little drinking might be good for your brain.

Drinking in moderation

And the meta-analysis published in JAMA Network Open that involved 107 studies with more than 4.8 million participants also found no longevity benefit for drinkers. This research showed that people who have one or two drinks a day have essentially the same risk of dying prematurely as people who’ve never had alcohol. Alcoholic drinks contain calories, and so do many mixers added to alcoholic drinks, such as soda, juice or cream. Added sugars can is alcohol good for you also come in the form of simple syrup or liqueurs, which are common ingredients in many cocktails. Of course, relationships have their own chemistry, a language of dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, etc. But I think that in the rush to decipher the bodily molecules, we are missing the essential lesson, which is that some of the most valuable health benefits don’t come from compounds that can be bottled, or condensed into a gel capsule.

An association between moderate drinking and lower risk for CHD does not necessarily mean that alcohol itself is the cause of the lower risk. It can increase your risk of conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, several types of cancer and alcohol dependence. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since energy drinks contain a high amount of caffeine, when they’re added to alcohol, they subdue the depressant effects of alcohol so drinkers feel more alert. Because they feel more alert, drinkers may assume they’re less affected by alcohol and in turn consume more alcohol. This increases their likelihood of being impaired, and their risk for serious injury and risky behavior.

The Bottom Line: Balancing Risks and Benefits

Information on drinking levels as they are defined in the individual studies cited in this issue can be found in the original references. Observational studies, which look at what different groups of people eat and drink, have seen that people who drink a moderate amount of alcohol have a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke. Other potential health benefits have been observed, but there is not strong enough evidence to say that alcohol deserves the credit. The risk of developing cancer increases substantially the more alcohol is consumed. This drinking pattern is responsible for the majority of alcohol-attributable breast cancers in women, with
the highest burden observed in countries of the European Union (EU).

However, in these studies, most, if not all, of the apparent protective effect against CHD was realized at low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption. This article will explore drinking habits, the potential health benefits of drinking in moderation, the risks, and other effects of alcohol on the body. Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, including Bryazka, participated in the analysis of the 2020 Global Burden of Disease Study. They looked at drinking habits across genders and age groups around the world and their associations with 22 diseases and injuries, such as liver disease, breast cancer and car crashes. They wanted to find out how much a person could drink each day without raising their risk for these health problems and at what level of drinking their risk was statistically higher than that of nondrinkers.

Why Alcohol Is Good for You

You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. American Cancer Society medical information is copyrighted material. Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

is alcohol good for you