THE IMPACT OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON HEALTH
The majority of people in this country consume some form of alcoholic beverage. Why are these drinks so popular? If those of us who partake are honest with ourselves, we would admit that when we were first introduced to alcohol, we participated to gain psychosocial benefits such as mood elevation, increased sociability, neutralized inhibitions, and possibly stress reduction. There was little, if any, attraction to the taste. However, with time, we cultivated a taste for whatever became our beverage of choice. We then had an attractive combination of a tasty drink with the emotional lift. The popularity and consumption of ‘spirits’ has been on a dramatic increase for many years, even though the World Health Organization rated alcohol a grade 1 carcinogen (cancer causing agent) in 1988.
All ‘drinkers’ have been pleased with published results of many research investigations (observational) reporting that alcohol (particularly red wine) used in moderation is heart healthy. It was determined that the health benefits likely resulted from alcohol raising the HDL (good cholesterol) which provides protection from strokes and heart attacks and it also has an aspirin-like effect by thinning the blood.; that is, by inhibiting the clotting cells from sticking together, clots are prevented that might plug an artery causing a heart attack or stroke. Additionally, red wine contains an antioxidant, resveratrol, a biochemical that cleans up potentially damaging free radicals that we form daily. Wonderful! We could enjoy our adult beverages and get health benefits!
The studies demonstrating these benefits were based on mild to moderate drinking which is considered by most experts to be no more than 2 alcohol equivalents per day for males and 1 per day for females. The quantity for females is less because they have much less total water body weight than males, and the effects of alcohol are neutralized by distribution into body water. Also, the liver enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, that degrades alcohol, is less active in females. Finally, females absorb 30% more alcohol than males after consuming the same amount.
The following are alcohol equivalents based on alcohol content: 12 oz. of beer = 5 oz. of wine = 1.5 oz. of 80 proof distilled spirits (liquor).
We want our readers to be currently informed even if it means revealing possibly unpleasant news. A new global study was just completed and published in the well-respected medical journal, The Lancet. The investigation analyzed data from 83 studies involving 600,000 participants from 19 countries in the time frame 1970-2016. All of the participants used alcohol and the purpose was to evaluate whether using alcohol was healthy or harmful. The principal investigators of the research concluded that “no amount of alcohol is good for overall health”. The data obtained, confirmed that toxicity risk of mild to moderate alcohol use is much more common in heavy users. There is increased risk of a number of cancers including breast, oropharyngeal, esophageal, stomach, and colon. There are potential negative impacts on the liver (alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis) and pancreas (pancreatitis). There can be shortened life expectancy from falls, motor vehicle accidents, and suicide. Blood pressure elevations can occur in heavy drinkers leading to heart disease and stroke.
There are experts who have expressed concern that the new study is overstated, and there is not compelling evidence for people to stop drinking altogether. After all, in an analogous manner, it could be stated that there is no guaranteed safe level of driving a vehicle, but there are not likely to be recommendations that people stop driving. As a matter of fact, there is no guaranteed safe level of living, but it is certainly doubtful that absolution from living would ever be recommended.
In summary, if you choose to drink alcohol, do so responsibly and in moderation by having no more than one to two alcohol equivalents per day and avoid binge drinking. In other words, don’t abstain for 6 days and choose to consume your weekly allocation of 7-14 drinks on day 7.
To determine the net impact on an individual’s health, the probable risks and benefits should be weighed carefully in consultation with your physician.
Dr. Tippett is the founder of Comprehensive Quality Healthcare Providers, a concierge internal medicine practice, located at 1210 Commerce Dr. Suite 106, Greensboro, Ga. 30642. He can be reached at 706-510-3659. Visit his webpage at www.drtippett.com