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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Should You Drink?



I am sure you have heard about the potential health benefits of alcohol. Does that mean you should start drinking if you are not someone who normally enjoys a drink? How much is OK to drink? Let’s look at it a little bit more closely.

Potential benefits

Numerous studies in the past few years have been touting benefits of drinking. There are three reasons why alcohol has this reputation. One is for the blood thinning aspect of alcohol. Drinking one to two drinks per day is sort of like taking an aspirin every day. It has mild blood thinning aspects to it. The other benefit you hear about is the antioxidants. Red wine has the biggest reputation for this and it is for the resveratrol. However, white wine also has antioxidants and so does beer (barley and hops have antioxidants). Some research has also suggested that drinking alcohol may increase HDL, or good, cholesterol.

Potential Risk

With alcohol there is a definite rule that if a little is good, more is not better. Health risks of drinking alcohol are very well documented, but these risks generally occur when people go above the moderation principle. Health risks include heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, gallstones, pancreatitis. In fact, a new study was released this week on the potential increased risk of endometrial cancer in women who consume more than two drinks per day. Alcohol abuse can also affect a person’s emotional wellbeing, moods, and relationships.

Moderation

Moderation with alcohol is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Moderation is if you have this amount each day (or less often). You cannot add up your drinks for the week and have 7 on Friday night and still be within your moderation level. Alcohol is a toxin and health risk increases greatly after consumption of two drinks.

What is one drink?

5 oz of wine

12 oz of beer

1.5 (one shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor)

All of these drinks in these amounts have equivalent amounts of alcohol in them. It doesn’t matter if the wine is white or red, dry or sweet, or if the beer is light or regular.

Bottom line

Enjoy a drink or two if you wish. Do not start drinking because you keep hearing about the potential health benefits. There are other ways to get the benefits without starting to drink. If you want more antioxidants, eat some grapes or other fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you want to raise your HDL, get out there and exercise or reduce your body fat. If you think you need the blood thinning benefits, talk to your doctor about starting a low dose aspirin every day.

Cheers!

To read more about alcohol abuse and dependence, click here.

Photo of red wine courtesy of istockphoto

Photo of alcohol equivalents courtesy of Distilled Spirits Council

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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