Despite Claims Of Health Benefits, Drinking Alcohol Remains Leading Cause of Preventable Death
Have you ever heard the idea that red wine in moderation can be healthy for you? Many people hear this and then use the concept as a reason to drink. The idea that drinking wine can have some sort of health benefit very often makes people feel okay about drinking a glass or two of wine each night. While there have been some health benefits found from the antioxidant resveratrol, which is in red wine, this doesn’t mean that wine itself is healthy. There are numerous health benefits from consuming resveratrol, but it is essential to remember that alcohol in any form is a known carcinogen. When it comes to resveratrol, there are other ways this nutrient can be added to one’s diet.
So what exactly is resveratrol?
Resveratrol is an antioxidant that can be found in the skin of grapes, raspberries, blueberries, mulberries, and peanuts. Because wine is made from grapes, resveratrol can also be found in this type of alcohol. Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory effects as well as antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties.
According to an article by Harvard Medical School, most of the benefits of resveratrol have only been found in experiments with mice. Due to limited research, it is still difficult to tell how much the antioxidant affects human health. According to animal studies, some of the potential benefits of resveratrol would include the following:
- Resveratrol may help lower blood pressure by helping blood vessels relax.
- May help reduce heart attacks by increasing the amounts of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (good cholesterol) which helps prevent the build-up of bad cholesterol.
- May lower the risk of inflammation.
- May help reduce the formation of blood clots.
- May help with certain types of cancer
- May help prevent certain neurological disorders
While resveratrol does have some health benefits and drinking red wine does add resveratrol to a person’s diet, there is a whole laundry list of risks associated with drinking alcohol. Ironically many of the risks that are associated with drinking alcohol are the exact opposite of some of the potential benefits listed above. Now that we have established this strange juxtaposition let’s look at some of the risks of drinking alcohol.
Common Risks associated with drinking alcohol include but are not limited to:
- Liver and pancreas disease
- Heart failure
- Weight gain and obesity
- Harmful accidents due to violence or suicide
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, voice box, and throat
- Depression or anxiety
- Learning or memory problems
- Alcohol-induced dementia
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Weakened immune system
- Alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence
- Social problems
- Injuries or motor vehicle crashes
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risky sexual behaviors while under the influence
Most health experts agree that if a person is going to drink alcohol, they should either consume it in moderation or not drink at all. Excessive alcohol use is one of the leading forms of preventable deaths in the United States. On average, there are more than 95,000 deaths related to alcohol in the United States each year, which equals out an average of 261 deaths per day. More than half of alcohol-related deaths are due to the adverse health effects of drinking that created a compounding effect over time; however, many deaths are also attributed to short-term consequences such as alcohol poisoning or driving under the influence. People often forget that alcohol is indeed a dangerous drug and not something that people should use in excess. Unfortunately, the social norms in the United States tend to look the other way when it comes to alcohol use and binge drinking.
Many people feel that their drinking is not a problem so long as they are not “an alcoholic,” but it is important to note that any amount of drinking can lead to a problem down the road. Therefore, it is essential to know the difference between drinking in moderation and drinking habits that can be problematic.
So what is the difference between drinking in moderation and binge drinking? Binge drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as having five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women in two hours. Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive alcohol use. It is estimated that one in six adults will bring drink an average of four times per month. Binge drinking is most common amongst younger adults (ages 18–34); however, many older adults binge drink as well.
Despite the potential benefits of resveratrol, the American Heart Association does not recommend that people start drinking alcohol to help prevent heart disease. There are plenty of other healthier alternatives to living heart-healthy life that do not involve drinking alcohol. It is also recommended that a person should avoid alcohol entirely if they are:
- Younger than 21
- Have heart failure or a weak heart
- Have a personal or family history of alcoholism
- Have liver or pancreatic disease
- Take certain medications
- Suffer from certain medical conditions
- Driving or planning on driving a vehicle in the near future
What are some other ways a person can ingest resveratrol besides drinking alcohol?
If you are interested in increasing the amount of resveratrol in your diet, there are plenty of healthy ways to do so. For example, eating whole grapes instead of drinking wine is a much healthier way to consume resveratrol. Foods that have been found to be rich in resveratrol include but are not limited to grapes, blueberries, cranberries, cocoa, dark chocolate, pistachios, and peanuts. Several different types of nutritional supplements are also available on the market. When selecting a nutritional supplement, it is essential to remember that not all supplements are created equal. Makes sure to read the labels on your supplements, and when possible, choose supplements that are food-based as they will be easier for your body to absorb.
Do the risks outweigh the benefits?
When looking at the benefits of resveratrol versus the risks of drinking, it becomes straightforward that the benefits do not outweigh the risks. While it is true that resveratrol can be beneficial to a person’s health, there are much safer ways to add this antioxidant to your daily diet without having to consume a known carcinogen. By simply eating foods with resveratrol in them or even taking a nutritional supplement, a person can receive all of the antioxidant benefits without harming their health through alcohol. It doesn’t make much sense to drink something because it contains an antioxidant when it also contains known carcinogens.
So is there really any health benefit from drinking wine that outweighs all of the adverse health effects of alcohol? In my opinion, there is no health reason to drink alcohol. Each person will need to make up their own mind when it comes to the matter of drinking, but at the end of the day, the fact remains the same that alcohol is a drug that kills people on a daily basis.