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Drink, be merry--but in moderation
Drinking in moderation can have some benefits

Date published: 12/7/2008

WITH the holidays now here, it seems appropriate that I dispel some myths regarding alcohol. No matter what you hear, alcohol is not necessarily harmful to you--nor will drowning yourself in eggnog afford you any expanded capacity to deal with your family.

Humans have been consuming alcohol in one form or another for more than 10,000 years. And yet we survive. Attempts have been made to ban alcohol in religious institutions and nations, but many cultures celebrates alcohol. So who has it right?

Well, both extremes draw from truth. Those who wish to do away with alcohol cite the incidence of alcoholism, diminution of inhibitions leading to reckless behaviors, and reduced mental and physical capacity that leads to the serious consequences of drunken driving--and less serious consequences of drunken dialing.

There is no argument to defend these extreme results of alcohol intoxication. But proper prevention of binge drinking--in other words, moderation--can lead to some healthy results from alcohol consumption.

WHAT'S MODERATION?

A "unit" of alcohol (further referred to as a "drink") is routinely quantified as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. All of these contain roughly 12-14 grams of ethanol--the active ingredient in your beverage that leads to spontaneous nudity.

Moderation is a debatable topic, but the experts have attempted to quantify this through research. Consensus seems to point to benefits outweighing risks when a male consumes one to two drinks a day, and a female consumes one drink each day.

Before you decry me as a sexist, understand that large studies point to a modest increased risk for breast cancer in women who consume large quantities of alcohol, while both sexes see large reductions in cardiovascular disease from moderate consumption.

Primarily, research points to a reduction in both heart attacks and strokes in groups of people who consume alcohol in moderation. The mechanism thought to be responsible for this risk reduction is the increase in good cholesterol (HDL) levels in those who imbibe.

There also seem to be reductions in peripheral vascular disease and sudden cardiac death. More recent studies point to reductions in new cases of diabetes and gallstones, and some stress reduction.


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