Could alcohol help you live longer?

“Light to moderate drinking can lower your overall risk of premature death”
“Alcohol could decrease your odds of dying from heart disease”
“Even moderate drinking is linked to pathological changes in the brain”.

Confused much? Headlines like these have been doing rounds in the last couple of weeks. It can be so frustrating, leaving you with a general feeling of  “just make up your minds!”.

So, what does the science say?

Drinking patterns matter

What is clear from the research is that light to moderate drinking has a very different impact on the body, and health, than heavy drinking. Despite what the headlines would have you believe, both studies found a very fine line between alcohol’s protective and harmful effects.

Weighing up the benefits versus the risks

Amount matters
In the old days, alcohol was used for almost anything: in place of safe drinking water, as a preservative or even medicine! These days, however, we know that there is a clear “dose-response” relationship between health and alcohol. More alcohol = more health risks!

Studies show several health benefits associated with drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to improve the types of fats floating around in your blood, which lowers your risk of getting clots and blockages in your arteries.

Age matters
To complicate things a bit more, you age also counts, as well as the stage of life you’re in. For example:

  • For a 30-year-old man, the increased risk of alcohol-related accidents outweigh the heart-related benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.
  • For a 60-year-old man, a drink a day may help protect against heart disease.
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Other factors:

Beyond age, there are other factors that may change the risks for you specifically, such as:

  • A pregnant woman: even moderate alcohol can create problems for her unborn child.
  • A recovering alcoholic can never have alcohol again: not even a little.
  • A person with liver disease: alcohol is processed by your liver, which means even if you drink a little, the effect of alcohol can be the same as drinking a lot.
  • People taking one or more medications that interact with alcohol.

Should you start drinking alcohol to live longer?

It’s safe to say that alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. The difference lies mostly in the dosage. If you want to know the exact dose that is safe for you, take a look at this article.

The real take home message here is that you can’t always believe what a headline tells you. You need to dig a bit deeper and do your own investigation. Choose reliable sources and always read the full article! If that sounds too technical, there is an easier option…. Call one of our doctors who have already done the research and are on hand to guide you through the confusion!

References

http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j2645
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318942.php
http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/alcoholism4.htm

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