Author: James Anderson

Alcohol use: Weighing risks and benefits

Is alcohol unhealthy

Many people drink alcohol as a personal preference, during social activities, or as a part of cultural and religious practices. People who choose not to drink make that choice for the same reasons. Knowing your personal risk based on your habits can help you make the best decision for you. Recommendations for alcohol intake are usually based on the number of standard drinks per day. Red wine may be one of the healthiest alcoholic beverages, probably due to its high concentration of antioxidants.

  1. Fatal alcohol-related injuries tend to occur in relatively younger age groups.
  2. The percentage of alcohol-attributable deaths among men amounts to 7.7 % of all global deaths compared to 2.6 % of all deaths among women.
  3. There are several possible reasons for the beneficial effects of drinking moderately.
  4. The main psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic beverages is ethanol.

Red wine appears to be particularly beneficial because it is very high in healthy antioxidants. An estimated 12% of Americans are believed to have been dependent on alcohol at some point in their life (69). People may start abusing alcohol due to depression or become depressed by abusing alcohol. It’s produced by yeasts that digest sugar in certain carb-rich foods, such as grapes — used to make wine — or grains — used to make beer.

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Many people assume the occasional beer or glass of wine at mealtimes or special occasions doesn’t pose much cause for concern. But drinking any amount of alcohol can potentially lead to unwanted health consequences. During pregnancy, drinking may cause the unborn baby to have brain damage and other problems. For example, any amount of drinking increases the risk of breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The bottom line is that alcohol is potentially addictive, can cause intoxication, and contributes to health problems and preventable deaths. If you already drink at low levels and continue to drink, risks for these issues appear to be low.

That said, consuming high amounts does not provide greater health benefits. Heavy drinking causes health problems — regardless of the type of beverage. Chronic alcohol abuse can have catastrophic health effects, impacting your entire body and causing a range of health problems.

By reducing self-consciousness and shyness, alcohol may encourage people to act without inhibition. At the same time, it impairs judgment and may promote behavior people may end up regretting (1, 2). Alcohol is one of the most popular psychoactive substances in the world. Alcohol consumption by an expectant mother may cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and pre-term birth complications.

Short-Term Health Risks

Some people become addicted to the effects of alcohol, a condition known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Drinking alcohol may increase your risk of certain cancers, especially mouth and throat cancer. More than four drinks daily appear to cause a fivefold increase in your risk of mouth and throat cancer, as well as an increase in your risk of breast, colon and liver cancer (58, 59, 61, 62).

Is alcohol unhealthy

The problem is, most people have no idea what qualifies as a “standard drink.” To worsen matters, the official definition of a standard drink differs between countries. In fact, it may have adverse effects on development, growth, intelligence and behavior — which may affect the child for the rest of its life (63). Alcohol abuse during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in the US. Drinking while pregnant can lead to abnormal facial features, low birth weight, central nervous system problems, and other serious issues (63, 64). However, studies investigating the link between alcohol and weight have provided inconsistent results (31). Generally referred to as “alcohol,” ethanol is the substance that makes you drunk.

Moderate alcohol consumption may reduce symptoms of type 2 diabetes by enhancing the uptake of blood sugar by your cells. Because your brain is very sensitive to damage, chronic alcohol abuse may increase your risk of dementia and cause brain shrinkage in middle-aged and older adults (12, 13, 14, 15). Harmful use of alcohol is accountable for 7.1% and 2.2% of the global burden of disease for males and females respectively.

Alcohol Use and Your Health

If you are a heavy drinker, following a healthy diet and exercise routine will still be beneficial for your health, but not as much as getting your alcohol consumption under control, or abstaining completely. Alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, in predisposed individuals. As a rule of thumb, if alcohol is adversely affecting your quality of life, you may have a problem with alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Many different subtypes of alcohol dependence exist, characterized by alcohol cravings, inability to abstain or loss of self-control when drinking (71). Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat, colon, breast and liver (57, 58, 59). Excessive alcohol consumption can have numerous adverse effects on your brain.

Staying Healthy

That usually means four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks within two hours for men. For women, more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks a week is heavy drinking. For men, heavy drinking means more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks a week. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than one standard drink per day for women and no more than two for men. In fact, red wine may be linked to more health benefits than any other alcoholic beverage (75, 76, 77, 78, 79).

A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to alcohol consumption arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes, violence, and suicide. Fatal alcohol-related injuries tend to occur in relatively younger age groups. Alcohol is a psychoactive substance with dependence-producing properties that has been widely used in many cultures for centuries. The harmful use of alcohol causes a high burden of disease and has significant social and economic consequences.