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Chapter 7. Alcohol

Health Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Intake

In contrast to excessive alcohol intake, moderate alcohol intake has been shown to provide health benefits. The data is most convincing for preventing heart disease in middle-aged and older people. A review of twenty-nine studies concluded that moderate alcohol intake reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by about 30 percent in comparison to those who do not consume alcohol.[1]

Several other studies demonstrate that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the incidences of stroke and heart attack, and also death caused by cardiovascular and heart disease. The drop in risk for these adverse events ranges between percent. Moreover, there is some scientific evidence that moderate alcohol intake reduces the risk for metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and gallstones. In addition to providing some health benefits, moderate alcohol intake also serves as a digestive aid, a source of comfort and relaxation, and inducing social interactions, thereby benefiting all aspects of the health triangle. It has not been clearly demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption benefits younger populations, and the risks of any alcohol consumption do not outweigh the benefits for pregnant women, those who are taking medications that interact with alcohol, and those who are unable to drink in moderation.

The Reality

Alcohol is a diuretic that results in dehydration. It suppresses the release of antidiuretic hormone and less water is reabsorbed and more is excreted. Drinking alcohol in excess can lead to a “hangover,” of which the majority of symptoms are the direct result of dehydration.

  1. Ronksley PE, et al. Association of Alcohol Consumption with Selected Cardiovascular Disease Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. BMJ. 2011; 342, d671. http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.d671. Accessed October 5, 2017.