Drinking alcohol: Is it good or bad for you?

Published 10:32 am Monday, May 23, 2022

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Alcohol, like so many other things, has been reported as good or bad for you. This is also true of meat, coffee, caffeine, and soda. 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. What does light or moderate drinking mean?

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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 consume fewer than 3 drinks per week; moderate consumption for women is considered to be 7 or fewer drinks per week but not more than 1 per day, and moderate consumption for men is considered to be 3 to 14 drinks per week, but not more than 2 per day. Heavy drinkers consume more than 2 drinks per day for women and more than 3 drinks per day for men, and binge drinkers have 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:

  • 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. A recent study led by scientists from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found, “…a correlation between moderate drinking on a regular basis and prolonged cognitive health, as well as longevity.” 


On the other hand, “Another 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.”


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 appears 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 binge drinker or showed the traits of an addictive personality and these were passed on to you, your 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 must take personal responsibility for your behavior and if needed, seek professional help if it becomes a problem.

Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. You may contact him by phone at (828) 696-9799 or by email at: drron561@gmail.com