Like most people I first started drinking alcohol at the tender age of 16 when I was in my first year at varsity. Since then I've been drinking my fair share of alcohol, mostly in moderation. Little did I realise that I was taking a very powerful medicine that would ensure my longevity! I have been studying the effects of alcohol on health lately. Most of what I learnt came from the internet and a marvelous book called The Age Heresy by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene. All the facts quoted here can be verified. (I have all the references).
Of course alcohol abuse, like most things you overdo, can be bad for you, but the good news is that Dr Stephen Iliffe of the Whittington Hospital found that elderly male drinkers scored better in intelligence tests than non-drinkers if they stuck to moderate intake of alcohol. (I’ve often wondered what makes me so intelligent ... and modest. Now I know it’s all the red wine and whiskey I’ve been drinking!)
Another source says that moderate drinkers tend to live longer than those who either abstain or drink heavily.
· A Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared to abstainers.
· A large-scale study in China found that middle-aged men who drank moderately had a nearly 20% lower overall mortality compared to abstainers.
· Harvard's Nurses' Health Study of over 85,000 women found reduced mortality among moderate drinkers.
· A British analysis of 12,000 male physicians found that moderate drinkers had the lowest risk of death from all causes during the 13-year study.
I can go on, but you get the picture: it’s been proven over and over again that moderate drinking of alcohol prolongs life. (I have all the scientific references if anybody's really interested in wading through them).
These studies included all kinds of alcohol, but when it comes to heart attack prevention, red wine is king.
Many scientists have proven that drinking red wine regularly can significantly reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease. For instance in France where they drink on average 70 Litres of red wine per person per year, the number of deaths due to heart disease is a mere 15 per 100 000 deaths for men and only 5 per 100 000 for woman.
Compare this to the UK where the consumption of red wine on average is a measly 12 litres per year and the number of men dying of heart disease is about 500 per 100 000 deaths (women about 200 per 100 000). Of course, I realise that other factors will play a role, but it is still an interesting statistic. Why drink to reduce the risk of heart disease? Wouldn't eating a good diet, exercising, and losing weight do the same thing?
No, it wouldn't. Alcohol appears to be more effective than most other lifestyle changes that are used to lower the risk of heart and other diseases.
For example, the average person would need to follow a very strict low-fat diet, exercise vigorously on a regular basis, eliminate salt from the diet, lose a substantial amount of weight, and probably begin medication in order to lower cholesterol by 30 points or blood pressure by 20 points.
But alcohol can have a greater impact on heart disease than even these hard-won reductions in cholesterol levels or blood pressure.
Only stopping smoking is more effective.
Adding alcohol to a healthy diet is more effective than just following the diet alone.
So how does it work?
· Alcohol increases HDL (‘good’) cholesterol and lowers LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol
· It decreases blood clotting
· It stops your coronary artery from going into a spasm when you’re stressed and increases blood flow in your coronary artery
· It reduces your blood pressure
Alcohol puts on weight right?
Wrong! To learn more, visit http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/AlcoholCaloriesAndWeight.html Alcohol,
So what else can alcohol do for you?
- Well, it can reduce your risk of having a stroke for one thing.
- You can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Whether you drink beer, wine or distilled spirits makes little difference, but the pattern of consumption does. It’s much better to drink frequently (such as daily) rather than infrequently for maximum health benefits.
- It can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementia by up to 75% according to a French study. Many other studies were done with the same result.
- If you drink in moderation you can increase your resistance to the common cold.
- An analysis of data from 760,044 men and women who were tracked for seven to 20 years found that moderate drinkers are about 30% less likely to develop kidney cancer than are abstainers.
- Drinking alcohol reduces the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) cancer by 27%. The protective effect of alcohol did not vary by beer, wine, or distilled spirits consumption.
- Research studies suggest that the consumption of alcohol reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
And the list goes on...
Moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be beneficial to reducing or preventing even more diseases and health problems:
- Bone Fractures and Osteoporosis
- Digestive Ailments
- Duodenal Ulcer
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Hearing Loss
- Hepatitis A
- Macular Degeneration (a major cause of blindness)
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Parkinson's Disease
- Poor Physical Condition in the Elderly
- Stress and Depression
I think it’s fairly obvious that moderate consumption of alcohol is good for you. So go for it! Have your favourite tipple regularly, but not more than one to three tots or glasses per day. “Tying one on” once a week by drinking an entire week’s quota at one sitting can undo all the good work.
(If you have a “drinking problem” or are a recovering alcoholic, obviously this “treatment” is not for you!)
Resveratrol and other anti-oxidants
The new buzzword in the anti-aging world is anti-oxidants. Drug companies are spending millions of dollars in research and development of new drugs and supplements containing these ‘magic’ ingredients.
The substance in red grape skins thought to be responsible for some of the beneficial effects of red wine has recently been identified as resveratrol. The good news is that there are many products now available containing this substance. If you are interested in taking some of these supplements to enhance your health and longevity, ask me and I will provide the sources.
If you’re not into taking pills (you really should be!) at least start drinking two glasses of red wine a day, if you’re not already doing it!
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