Moderate Alcohol Consumption

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Moderate Alcohol Consumption

It seems at this time of year you can't go anywhere without being offered a drink. So with that in mind, what are the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, and how can it help us to live longer and healthier?

First and foremost there are situations in which alcohol should never be consumed. Those with a history of alcoholism or substance abuse, pregnant women and those taking aspirin for cardiac health should abstain from alcohol. But for moderate drinkers (one to two drinks per day for men and one per day for women), feel free to imbibe.

According to the American Heart Association, moderate drinkers have lower heart disease risk than nondrinkers. However, drinking more alcohol increases such public health dangers as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents. Given these and other risks, the American Heart Association cautions people NOT to start drinking ... if they do not already drink alcohol.

The best-known effect of alcohol is an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. However, regular physical activity and weight loss are other effective ways to raise HDL cholesterol. A substance called resveratrol that’s found in alcoholic beverages may prevent platelets in the blood from clumping, which may reduce clot formation and reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Similarly, aspirin helps reduce blood clotting.

French scientists looked at the specific components of the good cholesterol in the blood of red wine drinkers, and found men who drank red wine regularly had cholesterol that was richer in polyunsaturated phospholids and omega-3 fatty acids. Previous research has shown omega-3 fatty acids in the diet are associated with lower rates of heart disease.

After four glasses a day, Renaud warned, wine has an adverse effect on death rates. Although it still protects the heart, excess drinking raises the danger of cancers and liver disease. The liver is the first major organ of the body that detoxifies the contents of the blood stream.

Dr. Serge Renaud, the French scientist who showed the world that wine is good for the heart, has a new discovery: two to three glasses of wine a day reduces death rates from all ailments by up to 30 percent.

Renaud's study of 34,000 middle-aged men living in eastern France supports what has become known as "the French paradox": Frenchmen who eat lots of saturated fat but still live a long time.

As with most things, moderation is still the key. Cheers to you this holiday season.