It is not easy to be balanced when you have just seen some good news you want to believe of beneficial health effects. As on the other hand there are already plenty of incontroversial harmful health effects documented. What to do?
Let’s start with the negative side. And it is clear that you should take it easy on alcoholic drink consumption, as alcohol can be harmful to health. In the liver, enzymes convert alcohol into acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Competing with its use to metabolise fat, a molecule called NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is reduced to NADH during the conversion. Unfortunately, in people who drink daily, the body might not be able to detoxify acetaldehyde fast enough to counteract the negative effects. To make matters worse, heavy drinking can exhaust the levels of NAD, which can lead to accumulation of fat in the liver and often liver cirrhosis over time.
And that’s not all. The energy content of alcohol can lead to obesity in those who drink excessively. Being obese, in turn, carries a lot of health risks, including heart disease and diabetes.
So the alcohol itself in alcoholic beverages can clearly be damaging to health.
The other side
But just so you know there is not all doom and gloom.
We have written about beneficial compounds found in a range of alcoholic beverages before. There are a number of antioxidants like resveratrol in wine, ellagic acid in oak barrel aged whisky and xanthohumol in beer.
As antioxidants can help prevent the initiation of cancer they might at least partly counter the effects of acetaldehyde. Problem is that to ingest sufficient amounts of such compounds the alcohol you consume might negate the benefits.
But there is a further brighter side.
Alcohol consumed in moderation can actually be beneficial in itself. It has long been known that consumption of small amounts of alcohol may lower the risk of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
While a couple of glasses of wine can help you relax after a busy day, new research shows that it may actually help clean the mind as well. The new study shows that low levels of alcohol consumption reduce brain inflammation and helps the brain remove waste, including the proteins beta amyloid and tau that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Thus the new study showed for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health.
These finding adds to a growing body of research that point to the health benefits of low doses of alcohol. While excessive consumption of alcohol is a well-documented health hazard, many studies have linked lower levels of drinking equivalent to approximately two to three drinks per day with improved overall brain health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as a number of cancers.
Adding to doom and gloom
As we enjoyed the good news linked to having a couple of glasses of red wine on a weekly basis further bad news on the impact of heavy alcohol consumption was published.
According to a nationwide observational study of over one million adults diagnosed with dementia in France, more than half of 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia before the age of 65 were related to chronic heavy drinking of more than 60g of pure alcohol on average per day for men and 40g per day for women.
So what can we learn from science?
Say that a normal size bottle of red wine contains about 80-85g of pure alcohol and that is true for a typical alcohol content varying between 13.5% and 14.5%.
Therefore, enjoying a bit more than half a bottle of a good red wine a few times a week for men and a little less than half a bottle for women might be beneficial to both body and soul.
More and that balance might be damaged as there is a further guide indicating that the weekly consumption should not exceed 170g of pure alcohol for men and 110g for women.
So dare I say again that as usual the adage “everything in moderation” holds true.