The Hard Truth about Alcohol and Your Health

Alcohol is the source of a lot of controversy among the health and fitness world. A lot of dieticians and nutritionists recommend avoiding it completely, and man fitness nuts espouse the theory that abstinence is ideal for weight loss. On the other hand, studies have indicated that drinking certain alcohols—like red wine, dark beer, and Scotch—can provide a number of health benefits. So which is it? Is alcohol good for you or not?

A New Study On The Effects of Alcohol

A study from the University of Cambridge examined the effects of alcohol on more than 600,000 people from 19 different countries around the world. After factoring in health and lifestyle factors (age, smoking habits, level of education, history of diabetes, and more), the researchers found that the commonly-held belief that moderate drinking is good for your health may actually be wrong.

How Much Can I Drink?

According to the study, the maximum “safe” number of drinks to consume per week was 5. That’s five shots of hard liquor, five regular-sized glasses of wine, or five pints of light beer (if the alcohol volume of beer or wine rises, the amount safe to consume decreases). Anyone who consumed more than this limit had a higher risk of lowered life expectancy. 10+ drinks every week knocked 1-2 years off the average person’s life expectancy, and 18+ drinks per week shortened life expectancy by upwards of 4 years.

The Danger of Alcohol

While alcohol consumption has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and liver disorders, the primary threat of high alcohol intake in this study was cardiovascular disease. Those who drank a lot had a much higher chance of stroke, fatal aortic aneurisms, heart failure, and fatal hypertensive disease. While more alcohol can slightly reduce the risk of non-fatal heart attacks, the higher mortality rates are definitely something to worry about. Alcohol may have gotten a green light to date, but according to this study, it’s seriously time to rethink that!

Why Alcohol Is a Risk

Alcohol can raise blood sugar levels, which increase the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance. It can also strain your liver, contributing to fatty liver disease. However, the Cambridge study found that the real problem is the higher blood pressure caused by alcohol intake. High blood pressure can be very risky for those with existing heart conditions, weak blood vessels, or cholesterol build-up on the arterial walls. While non-fatal heart attacks are less common, the fatal kind of cardiovascular problems are much more real with high alcohol intake.

Moving Forward…

How should you change your lifestyle to match this new discovery? The good news is that you don’t have to totally cut alcohol from your diet. While too much alcohol can be a bad thing, you can limit yourself to those recommended five drinks per week to avoid any health problems. It may not sound like a lot, but remember that you’re doing it for your health’s sake.

What Type of Drinks?

Seeing as you only have a few drinks per week, you may want to opt for the ones that offer some health benefits. For example, red wine can lower your risk of non-fatal heart attacks and combat high cholesterol. Dark beer is very heart-smart, and whiskey is a natural painkiller. These three drinks are your top choice, as they’re the ones least likely to cause health problems. You can enjoy the occasional cocktail or shot of something stronger, but for the sake of your health, you’ll be better off with the “healthier” alcohols.

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