Nutrition News: Alcohol and a Healthy Lifestyle
For some, January's list of things to do includes a month-long fast from alcohol -- a cleanse. Others argue that alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle and red wine actually helps lower your risk of heart disease.
What's the bottom line? One word: moderation.
And just what does that mean? Moderate alcohol consumption means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Different types of beer, wine and liquor have different amounts of alcohol. But in general, a drink is one 12-ounce regular beer, 4 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits, such as bourbon, vodka or gin.
The other end of that spectrum is binge drinking. Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk for many health problems, including high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver disease, depression, suicide and alcoholism.
If you're pregnant, under 21, have certain health conditions or take certain medications, you shouldn't drink at all.
For the rest of us, it's moderation.
Here's what science tells us about alcohol's effects on the body.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of some fats in the blood known as triglycerides. A high triglyceride level combined with high levels of low-density lipoproteins ("bad" cholesterol) or low levels of high-density lipoproteins ("good" cholesterol) has been associated with fatty buildup in the artery walls. That, in turn, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Excessive drinking can also lead to high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and even death from alcohol poisoning. And it can interfere with the brain's communication pathways, affecting the way the brain works.
And then there are all the extra calories from drinking alcohol, which can lead to obesity and a higher risk of developing diabetes.