There’s no doubt that alcohol is the centerpiece of many a single’s social life. Last time, Singletude listed some signs that a drinking habit has crossed into the danger zone.
But what about the rest of us who drink responsibly? What are we to think of the effects of alcohol? Every time we turn around, the FDA or some university is spouting statistics about why alcohol is or is not good for us: “Drink up that red wine! It’ll keep your heart healthy! But be careful of the tannins.” It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, whether or not you just tipped back a shot of tequila.
Here, then, are some pros and cons stacked up against each other so you can weigh them in the balance and decide for yourself:
(Note: In most studies, moderate drinking is defined as no more than one or two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women.2 One drink equals 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor.3)
Pros: Moderate drinking can protect against cancers of the pancreas and kidneys (a 30-66% decrease), as well as against Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (a 27% decrease).6
Cons: Compared to those who don't drink, people who have more than three drinks a day increase their risk of colorectal cancers by 26%, and women increase their risk of breast cancer by 30-41%.1,5 Alcohol can also contribute to cancers of the liver, pancreas, mouth, throat and uterus.1
Pros: Moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, and sudden cardiac death by 25-40%2, with the decrease in cardiovascular disease perhaps as great as 70%.5,6 It can also cut in half the chance of stroke due to blood clots1 and decrease the risk of high blood pressure by about 15%.6
Cons: Alcohol can increase the risk of stroke due to hemorrhage.1 More than two drinks a day can also double the risk of high blood pressure1,5,6 and lead to cardiomyopathy2 and sudden cardiac death.3 Even those who drink only once or twice a day are prone to abnormal atrial rhythms.1
Pros: Imbibing in moderation has been shown to lower one's risk of dementia and Alzheimer's by up to 75 or 80%.4,6 It's also associated with a decreased incidence of Parkinson's disease.6 Moderate drinkers are less likely to develop cataracts7, macular degeneration, and hearing loss.6
Cons: Alcohol has been shown to disrupt sleep.2
Pros: Seniors who have two drinks a day are 22% less likely to have hip fractures.1 Moderate drinkers are also less likely to develop osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.6
Cons: Seniors who have more than two drinks a day are 18% more likely to suffer fractures.1 In addition, those who consume five or six drinks within two days are twice as likely to suffer from gout.1
Pros: Those who drink moderately are less likely to develop digestive problems including duodenal ulcers6 and gallstones.3 Furthermore, there is a decrease of 30-60%6 in the incidence of diabetes.3,4
Cons: Consuming at least five drinks a day can lead to hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.2,5 Heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis.3
Pros: Moderate drinking can reduce the risk of kidney stones and cancer (by 30-66% for cancer).6
Cons: None with moderate drinking.
Pros: None with moderate drinking.
Cons: Alcohol has been associated with miscarriage and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.3
Pros: Studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption decreases overall mortality rates by 20-30% as compared to heavy consumption and abstinence.6
In all cases, the risk-benefit ratio changes with age. At age 30, risks outweigh benefits because one's chance of developing conditions like cancer and heart disease are naturally lower. By age 60, benefits outweigh risks.2
What other health benefits or risks can you think of for moderate drinking? Do you know anyone whose health was positively or negatively impacted by alcohol? What are your drinking habits? How do you recommend that other singles approach alcohol?
1. USA Weekend
2. Harvard School of Public Health
4. Medical News Today
5. UptoDate Patient Information
6. State University of New York - Potsdam
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