Drinking Alcohol – Is it Good or Bad? Protective or Harmful?

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, August 15, 2019

Like so many other things that have been reported as good or bad for you like meat, coffee, caffeine and soda, so too has alcohol. In recent years there have been several studies that show that certain amounts of alcohol consumption are actually good for you, but where’s that line between drinking for health and overdoing it which can cause numerous problems?


It should be obvious that heavy drinking can have disastrous health effects, but light to moderate alcohol consumption could be beneficial.

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Let’s begin by defining levels of consumption based on research done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

  • Light drinkers – fewer than 3 drinks per week
  • Moderate women – 7 or fewer drinks per week but not more than 1 per day
  • Moderate men – 3 to 14 drinks per week, but not more than 2 per day
  • Heavy – more than 2 drinks per day for women and more than 3 drinks per day for men
  • Binge Drinkers – 4 or more drinks per day for women and 5 or more drinks per day for men


One drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, and to put that into terms of types of alcohol the NIAAA defines what one drink is depending on what is consumed as:

  • 12 fluid ounces (fl oz) of regular beer at around 5 percent alcohol
  • Between 8 and 9 fl oz of malt liquor at around 7 percent alcohol
  • 5 fl oz of table wine at around 12 percent alcohol
  • 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits, such as gin, rum, whiskey, tequila, or vodka


The question is, whether and in what quantities alcohol may affect your health is a point of contention? A new study led by scientists from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has now found, “…a correlation between moderate drinking on a regular basis and prolonged cognitive health, as well as longevity.” 


On the other hand, “A new study (by the University of Oxford and University College London) concludes that even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a raised risk of faster decline in brain health and mental function. The researchers say that their findings support the United Kingdom’s recent tightening of guidance on alcohol and questions the limits given in the United States guidelines.”


So what are we to believe? The National Health Interview surveys done between 1997 and 2009 involving more than 330,000 participants showed, “…that light to moderate drinking might have some protective effects against cardiovascular disease, while heavy drinking can lead to death. A delicate balance exists between the beneficial and detrimental effects of alcohol consumption.”


It would appear that the takeaway from this research may have a great deal to do with the health and genetic make-up of those who drink.  If your parent was a serious problem drinker, or showed the traits of an addictive personality and these were passed on to you, the likelihood of problems with alcohol may increase. If the levels of moderation are followed and overall health, both physical and mental are good, and no prescription drugs are involved that stipulate against drinking alcohol, the benefits of light to moderate consumption may prevail.


Obviously, there’s no perfect answer to the question, but there is the use of good common sense and good decision-making based on how your body and brain tolerate the consumption of alcohol at any level. This is one area where you have to take personal responsibility for you behavior and if needed, seek professional help if it becomes a problem.


Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. His wife’s geriatric management practice   serves clients in Henderson, Polk & Brevard Counties. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease” available as a Kindle book on Amazon.com. He and his wife may be contacted at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: drron561@gmail.com.