Benefits of Moderate Drinking Result from Alcohol Itself
by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.
Some writers have been arguing that wine drinkers tend to be healthier than others because they generally have better health habits, not because they consume alcohol.
It’s true that wine drinkers tend to have better health habits than many others do. However, that can’t explain away the established medical fact that the moderate consumption of beer, wine or distilled spirits improves health and longevity. Both beer and liquor tend to confer the same health benefits as red wine; the benefit is found in the alcohol rather than in a specific beverage.
Alcohol reduces heart attacks, ichemic strokes and circulatory problems through a number of identified ways. They include:
- Improving blood lipid profile by increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decreasing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
- Decreasing thrombosis (blood clotting) by reducing platelet aggregation, reducing fibrinogen (a blood clotter) and increasing fibrinolysis (the process by which clots dissolve).
- Other ways such as increasing coronary blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and reducing blood insulin level.
The moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be more effective than most other lifestyle changes that are used to lower the risk of heart and other diseases. For example, the average person would need to follow a very strict low-fat diet, exercise vigorously on a regular basis, eliminate salt from the diet, lose a substantial amount of weight, and probably begin medication in order to lower cholesterol by 30 points or blood pressure by 20 points.
But medical research suggests that alcohol can have a greater impact on heart disease than even these hard-won reductions in cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Only cessation of smoking is more effective. Additionally, other medical research suggests that adding alcohol to a healthful diet is more effective than just following the diet alone.
After reviewing the research on heart diseases and stroke, Dr. David Whitten reported that "we don't have any drugs that are as good as alcohol” and noted investigator Dr. Curtis Ellison asserted that "abstinence from alcohol is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease."
The moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be beneficial in reducing or preventing even more diseases and health problems including angina pectoris bone fractures and osteoporosis, diabetes, digestive ailments, duodenal ulcer, erectile dysfunction (ED), essential tremors, gallstones, hearing loss, hepatitis A, kidney stones, liver disease, macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), pancreatic cancer, Parkinson’s disease, poor cognition and memory, poor physical condition in elderly, rheumatoid arthritis, stress and depression, and type B gastritis.
It’s not surprising that the science-based Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid recommends the regular moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) unless contraindicated.
It’s clear that the moderate consumption of alcohol improves health and increases longevity.