Alcohol consumption has always been associated with short-term and long-term health risks including accidents, high blood pressure, obesity, and various types of cancer.
Drinking alcohol can never be a good habit. Often, alcohol has been a factor contributing to weight gain in some individuals and has been associated with obesity.1 So, if you are aiming at losing some extra pounds around your waist, you probably should stop having your drinks.
But, do you really have to give up drinking completely?
Results of a study involving overweight and obese patients in a weight reduction treatment showed similar positive results when subjected to moderate doses of alcohol (white wine) when compared with those subjected to grape juice. The results also showed a similar reduction in body fat, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides, and cholesterol.2
Some say it is okay or considered not so unhealthy if you drink alcohol in moderation. This is a debatable statement because the definition of “moderate” drinking may vary from person to person. Let’s examine what moderate drinking means and the risks and benefits associated with it.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Moderate drinking is difficult to define because its meaning is different to different people. Sometimes, it is also confused with “social drinking.”
Moderate drinking may be defined as alcohol consumption that does not cause harm to either the drinker or the society. According to the guidelines formulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, moderate drinking is not more than one drink per day for women and a maximum of two drinks a day for men.3
This recommended dosage of alcohol is different in men and women because women become more intoxicated than men with the same amount of alcohol. This is due to the difference in the way the enzymes that break down alcohol function in men and women. In men, these enzymes are four times more active than in women.
A standard drink is generally considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits like gin and whiskey. Each of these drinks contains about 12 grams of alcohol.4
Benefits Of Moderate Drinking
1. Psychological Benefits
Review of a study shows that drinking low and moderate amounts of alcohol has been reported to increase affective expression, happiness, euphoria, conviviality, and pleasant and carefree feelings. It is also found to decrease tension, depression, and self-consciousness. Low alcohol doses have also shown to improve certain cognitive performance.5
In older individuals, moderate drinking stimulates appetite, promotes regular bowel function, increases feelings of happiness and freedom, and decreases stress, tension, and depression.6
2. Cardiovascular Benefits
There is evidence showing that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of developing coronary artery diseases.7 This does not mean that alcohol can fight existing coronary artery diseases. However, more research is required to substantiate this claim.
Risks Of Moderate Drinking
The side effects of moderate drinking are as follows:8
- Stroke: Even moderate consumption of alcohol can increase the risk of strokes due to bleeding.9
- Vehicle crashes: It is possible for low amounts of alcohol to impair driving-related skills, leading to car crashes.
- Interactions with medications: Alcohol may interact with medications and can cause adverse reactions. The usual effects are seen with medications such as sedatives, sleeping pills, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and certain painkillers.
- Breast cancer: Moderate alcohol consumption may also contribute to the risk of breast cancer.10
- Birth defects: There are studies that say that moderate alcohol consumption may cause birth defects. Children who were exposed prenatally to alcohol were smaller in weight, length, and head circumference.11
- Shift to heavy drinking: It is possible that, in the long run, individuals may shift to heavy drinking. Those with low self-control or a history of alcohol problems may be more prone to shifting to heavy drinking.
To conclude, you can drink alcohol and still lose weight as long as you are sensible about it. You cannot expect to lose weight drinking too much alcohol; at the same time, you need to exercise and follow a healthy diet with moderate drinking.
Therefore, moderate drinking is all about balancing the pros and cons of alcohol. You need to balance in such a way that the pros outweigh the cons.
|↑1||Traversy, Gregory, and Jean-Philippe Chaput. “Alcohol consumption and obesity: an update.” Current obesity reports 4, no. 1 (2015): 122.|
|↑2||Flechtner-Mors, Marion, H. K. Biesalski, C. P. Jenkinson, Guido Adler, and H. H. Ditschuneit. “Effects of moderate consumption of white wine on weight loss in overweight and obese subjects.” International journal of obesity 28, no. 11 (2004): 1420-1426.|
|↑3, ↑8||Moderate Drinking. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.|
|↑4||Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits. Harvard School of Public Health.|
|↑5||Baum-Baicker, Cynthia. “The psychological benefits of moderate alcohol consumption: a review of the literature.” Drug and alcohol dependence 15, no. 4 (1985): 305-322.|
|↑6||Dufour, Mary C., Loran Archer, and Enoch Gordis. “Alcohol and the elderly.” Clinics in geriatric medicine 8, no. 1 (1992): 127-141.|
|↑7||Moore, Richard D., and Thomas A. Pearson. “Moderate alcohol consumption and coronary artery disease: a review.” Medicine 65, no. 4 (1986): 242-267.|
|↑9||Camargo, Carlos A. “Moderate alcohol consumption and stroke. The epidemiologic evidence.” Stroke 20, no. 12 (1989): 1611-1626.|
|↑10||Willett, Walter C., Meir J. Stampfer, Graham A. Colditz, B. A. Rosner, C. H. Hennekens, and F. E. Speizer. “Moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer.” New England Journal of Medicine 316, no. 19 (1987): 1174-1180.|
|↑11||Day, Nancy L., N. Robles, G. Richardson, D. Geva, P. al Taylor, M. Scher, D. Stoffer, M. Cornelius, and L. Goldschmidt. “The effects of prenatal alcohol use on the growth of children at three years of age.” Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research 15, no. 1 (1991): 67-71.|