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Should I have That Glass of Wine

People have used alcohol in one form or another since prehistoric times.  

For centuries red wine in light to moderate amounts has been included in the Mediterranean diet with meals. I tend to favour red wine, a time-honoured component of the healthy Mediterranean diet.  It’s too soon to tell if non alcoholic grape juice is just as good.

So how does alcohol work in the body? Unlike most foods, alcohol is not digested; 95 percent of it is absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and small intestine within an hour. The other 5 percent is eliminated thought the kidneys, lungs or skin. The liver breaks down, or metabolises alcohol. The time this takes depends upon whether the alcohol is ingested with food and the person’s sex, weight, body type and tolerance level, which increases with time and use. On average, however it takes the liver 3 to 5 hours to completely metabolise 30 mil of alcohol.

Red wine is a rich source of resveratrol, which is thought to be a major contributor to the heart-healthy benefits associated with alcohol consumption. Red wine in particular appears to prolong lifespan by reducing heart attacks by raising HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clot formation. It is believed that oxidation of LDL’s (bad cholesterol) is what causes blood vessels to clog and form clots. Alcohol may reduce C-reactive protein, a marker of arterial inflammation. These effects could be what reduce cardiovascular disease. 

Alcohol thins the blood and this helps prevent clots from jamming tiny blood vessels in the brain and therefore possibly reduces the risk of strokes. 

It seems to stimulate the release of acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in learning and memory. It diminishes Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The antioxidant polyphenols, may protect the body from some cancers.

Alcohol can also significantly lower the risk of diabetes. In these small amounts it can aid digestion and improve appetite.

How much do we drink to achieve these health benefits?  These benefits are from 5 ounces of wine per day for a woman, and for a man, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (e.g., vodka, whiskey, gin).

I have no intention of promoting the benefits of alcohol to the tee-totaler.  Alcohol is clearly a huge risk for those drinking above light to moderate level.  

More than 1 – 2 glasses of alcohol will cause high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, liver disease, stroke, dementia, and several kinds of cancer including cancer of the liver, pancreas, oesophagus and mouth. A higher risk of breast cancer is clearly aligned with consumption of even one or two drinks daily and three or more alcoholic drinks per day elevates to high breast cancer risk. These risks clearly outweigh the benefits if breast cancer runs in your family. Alcohol can also interfere with the body’s metabolism of various vitamins and minerals.  Heavy drinkers have higher rates of violent and accidental death. Always check with your personal physician if you take any medications or have chronic medical conditions.

Alcohol as a “food” is habit forming and over-indulgence has major challenges. Be cautious if there are alcoholics in your family as you may have inherited the predisposition. Alcoholism can be fatal.

You should not drink alcohol if you:

·         have a history of alcohol abuse or alcoholism

·         have liver or pancreas disease

·         are pregnant or trying to become pregnant

·         will be driving an automobile

·         may have the need to operate dangerous equipment or machinery 

·         have a demonstrated inability to limit yourself to acceptable
intake levels

·         have personal prohibitions due to religious, ethical, or other

Even though it is true that there are clearly risks involved with alcohol consumption a study published in the American Journal of Medicine showed a 38% lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease in middle-aged Americans who started a judicious alcohol habit.

Source: USA Today!