Longneck, ice-cold beer will never break your heart!

But don’t read this with beer goggles on.

Best Practices for Alcohol Consumption

Potential Benefits

Many studies have shown some potential benefits of low to moderate alcohol use.

Within the alcohol conversation, the determination of how exactly “low to moderate” use is defined is its own point of conflict. However, most studies suggest one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men fit within the “low to moderate” definition. Also, “one drink” is equal to 12oz of regular beer, 5oz of wine, and 1.5oz of distilled spirits, according to the National Institute of Health.

Cardiovascular Health

One area that has been shown to most consistently benefit from low to moderate alcohol consumption is the cardiovascular system.

Moderate amounts of alcohol raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and higher HDL levels are associated with greater protection against heart disease.

According to a literature review done by the Mayo Clinic, moderate consumption of alcohol has also been shown to have a positive effect on blood clotting factors that can potentially lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.

Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Low to moderate alcohol consumption has also been shown to decrease the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as moderate levels of alcohol help increase insulin sensitivity, among other cardiometabolic factors.

Gallstones

Some studies also show that frequent, moderate alcohol intake may lower the risks of symptomatic gallstone disease in both men and women.

Cognitive Health

Increased HDL levels, increased insulin sensitivity, the prevention of platelet aggregation, positive effects on blood clotting factors of moderate alcohol intake, along with the anti-inflammatory and anit-oxidation properties of ethanol combine to show a protective effect on brain matter, particularly in the elderly.

Potential Concerns

While we’ve highlighted many of the potential benefits of low-to-moderate alcohol consumption, there are certainly potential outcomes to seriously consider before grabbing a pint, a glass, or a shot.

Cardiovascular Health

According to several studies, alcohol consumption and cardiovascular health have a relationship that ends up as a “J-shaped” curve when looking at the data on a graph. What that means is that the incidence of cardiovascular disease has been observed to be lower in many that fall into the low-to-moderate use category compared to those who either abstain or go beyond moderate use.

Research also shows that as soon as a person goes beyond consuming a moderate amount of alcohol—especially on a regular basis—the risk of hypertension, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases escalates quickly.

Gastrointestinal Health

The gastrointestinal system is the one most directly affected by alcohol intake, as alcohol goes from your mouth, down your esophagus, into your stomach, and then into the small intestine. From the small intestine, alcohol goes to the liver, where the majority of alcohol metabolism takes place.

The good news for those who enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol intake is that most people are able to metabolize up to two standard drinks of alcohol at a time with no harmful effects, according to a 2017 article published in the journal Alcohol Research.

In the same article, the negative effects of alcohol on the gastrointestinal system—and the systemic implications of dysfunction in the gut—are discussed, and include intestinal inflammation, altering of the microbiota composition and function, and increasing the permeability of the intestinal lining.

Cognitive Health

While some research suggest that low-to-moderate alcohol consumption has no negative effect on the brain—and possibly even a neuroprotective effect—other studies, such as this one, suggest that any amount of alcohol consumption contributes to lower total brain volume.

One meta-analysis of 27 studies found that chronic high alcohol consumption leads to a reduction in grey matter volume in the brain, and can have a negative effect on self-control, reasoning, memory, and emotional regulation, among other functions.

Liver Disease

As thoroughly explained in an article by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, chronic heavy alcohol consumption can cause a build-up of lipids in liver cells, leading to alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can lead to inflammatory reactions, and potentially fibrosis of the liver, also known as liver cirrhosis.This progression greatly increases the chances of the development of liver cancer.