Debunking the myth about red wine – Its effects on health

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“Excessive alcohol use” according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, is more than two drinks per day for men and more than one drink per day for women.

The one or two glasses of wine we have in the evening are not good for our health.

After decades of confusing and in some cases conflicting research, the picture is becoming clearer: Even small amounts of alcohol can take a toll on our health.

Research published in November revealed that between 2016 and 2019, excessive alcohol consumption led to about 140,000 deaths annually in the US, the majority of which were caused by chronic diseases such as liver disease, cancer and heart disease.

“The risk starts to increase at much lower levels than when people think, ‘Oh, he has an alcohol problem,'” said Dr. Tim Naimi, director of the Substance Use Institute at the University of Victoria.

Do you drink a lot?

“Excessive alcohol use” according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, is more than two drinks per day for men and more than one drink per day for women.

There is also growing evidence “that there are risks even at these levels, particularly for certain types of cancer and for some forms of cardiovascular disease,” said Marissa Esser, head of the CDC’s alcohol program.

And if you abstain from alcohol Monday through Thursday and have two or three drinks on the weekend, those drinks fall under the category of binge drinking. Total drinks over time, but also the amount of alcohol in our system at any one time, can cause problems.

Why is alcohol so harmful?

When we drink alcohol, the body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, a substance that is toxic to cells. Acetaldehyde “damages your DNA and prevents the body from repairing the damage,” Mr. Esser explained. “When your DNA is damaged, then a cell can get out of control and create a malignant tumor.”

Alcohol also causes oxidative stress, another form of DNA damage that can be particularly harmful to the cells surrounding blood vessels. Oxidative stress can lead to hardening of the arteries, resulting in higher blood pressure and coronary heart disease.

Is wine good for the heart?

Previous research shows that alcohol increases HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and that resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes (and red wine), has heart-protective properties.

But as Mariann Piano, a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, said, “There is a lot of recent evidence that strongly questions the so-called protective properties for heart tissue or the effects of alcohol on the heart.”

The belief that drinking less alcohol is good for the heart arose from the fact that those who drink small amounts also tend to have other healthy habits, such as exercising, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and not smoking.

More recent research shows that even low levels of alcohol slightly increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol is also linked to arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation, which increase the risk of blood clots and stroke.

Does alcohol cause cancer?

Alcohol is known to be directly related to seven different cancers: brain, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colorectal. There is research showing a link between alcohol and other cancers, such as prostate and pancreatic, although the evidence is less clear.

For some cancers, such as liver and colorectal, the risk only starts when people start drinking excessively. However, for the chest and esophagus, the risk increases, albeit slightly, with any level of consumption.

What is the biggest risk?

The most common cause of alcohol-related death in the US is liver disease, killing about 22,000 people a year.

It has three stages: steatosis, where fat accumulates in the organ, hepatitis, where inflammation begins, and cirrhosis. The first two stages are reversible if one stops drinking completely, the third is not.

Should you stop drinking?

Not everyone who drinks will develop these problems. Lifestyle, such as diet, exercise and smoking, as well as existing problems, such as high blood pressure, can all increase or decrease risk.

However, even a small reduction in the amount of alcohol can be positive, especially if you currently drink above the recommended limits.

Those who drink a little but every day can also benefit from reducing the amount. Try not to drink for a few nights: “If you feel better, your body is trying to say something,” said George Koob, director of the American Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

None of the experts who spoke to the New York Times said that alcohol should be cut out of our lives completely, unless there is abuse or pregnancy.

However, the general advice of Dr. Naimi is: “Drink less, live more”.

New York Post

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