It’s no secret that excessive drinking is unhealthy, but research doesn’t know where the line is between acceptable and unsafe drinking, and whether small amounts of drinking provide health benefits. may be contradicted by
In the last few months alone, the situation has been further complicated by two large studies. March analysis found that moderate drinkers did not have a lower risk of death than lifetime abstainers, Study session in June found that the heart health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with ways to reduce stress activity in the brain.
Meanwhile, a study published last month showed that the number of deaths related to excessive drinking in the United States is on the rise. especially among women.
So how harmful is one glass of wine a week or night? NBC News spoke to eight nutritionists and doctors about the risks and supposed benefits of alcohol. They generally agreed that abstinence was the healthiest, but moderate levels of drinking were not associated with significant risks for most people.
The idea that drinking can somehow improve health is false, they said.
“There is no absolute safe drinking level,” said Tim Stockwell, former director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research. “We know alcohol so well that we often underestimate its risks.”
What are your thoughts on the research suggesting the health benefits of drinking alcohol?
Perhaps the most common myth about the benefits of alcohol is the idea that an occasional glass of red wine promotes heart health.
Over the past few decades, some research has found link between moderate alcohol intake and reduce risk of heart disease. However, experts say such studies suggest that light drinking may be associated with other healthy lifestyle factors, such as an active, balanced diet, and that nondrinking participants may be more susceptible to alcohol health. said it did not necessarily account for the possible adverse effects of before deciding to quit drinking.
Dr. Krishna Aragham, a cardiologist and researcher at the Broad Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has previously said: research has found Light to moderate drinkers are likely to have a lower BMI, eat more vegetables, and engage in more physical activity than those who do not drink at all.
“There is a popular theory that perhaps those who can impose moderation on their alcohol consumption can also impose moderation in other aspects of their lives,” Allagam said.
Allagam co-authored 2022 survey The study also found trends toward a healthier lifestyle among light to moderate drinkers, but nonetheless concluded that any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. . Risk increased exponentially with heavy drinking, defined as eight or more drinks per week.
Regarding the red wine myth, Dr. Zhaoping Li, director of clinical nutrition at UCLA Health, pointed out that red grape skins also contain antioxidants that are thought to benefit the heart.
“I would never tell anyone, ‘Even if you don’t like it, drink wine because it makes you less likely to have a heart attack,'” Lee said.
How much alcohol is bad for your health?
of long term health risks Alcohol-related illnesses include liver and heart disease, weakened immune systems, and some types of cancer.Studies show that drinking large amounts of alcohol at once or 1 drink per day May raise blood pressure.
we dietary guidelines Moderate, low-risk alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. (However, it does not apply to people who are pregnant, have medical conditions that can be exacerbated by alcohol consumption, or are taking medications that interact with alcohol.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: We also provide services such as screening tool Allows people to assess their alcohol intake levels based on personal health factors.
but in canada Alcohol Guidelines RevisedThe paper, published in January, recommends cutting down on drinking significantly, citing two drinks a week as a moderately low-risk level.
Lee said he generally tells people not to drink more than two or three times a week.
“Let’s say you drink alcohol. You know it comes with calories and energy,” Lee said. “So I’m going to drink wine and eat vegetables and fish for dinner, but I’m not going to eat bread or anything else that gives me energy.”
When should I refrain from drinking alcohol?
estimated at over 140,000 According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, people die each year from alcohol-related causes. Over the past few years, the number of alcohol-related deaths nationwide has increased. in the United States, 25% surge in fatalities Trends that particularly impacted the first year of the pandemic middle aged adult.
Catherine Keyes, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said her study found that while young people are drinking less than they did decades ago, rates among young and middle-aged adults are rising. was shown in
For people who drink several times a week and don’t have alcoholism, even a small reduction in their intake can have significant health benefits, he added.
“It’s not like, ‘Okay, I think I’m drinking too much and I can’t drink anymore.’ That kind of health advice makes a lot of people uncomfortable,” says Keyes. “Thinking of drinking as a continuum rather than a dichotomy is an approach that we believe can be very helpful in improving people’s health.”
Emma Raine, director of nutrition at the University of Georgia School of Family and Consumer Sciences, said she decided to give up alcohol in 2020 after considering the health effects of alcohol and a family history of breast cancer.
Raine said she recommends people trying to cut back on drinking a balance of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, drinking slowly, and eating before drinking. Laing says she often brings her own non-alcoholic beer and wine to her social gatherings, and most bartenders are happy to make mocktails.
“Some of the hardest part of living and quitting alcohol comes from peer pressure, with people around you and even strangers questioning why you’re sober.” Mr Rain said. “We’ve found that having a non-alcoholic alternative on hand reduces this type of social pressure.”