The holiday season is upon us and many of you will likely be giving a toast at some point. Over the next few weeks there are parties to attend, toasts to raise, and libations to be had. But it’s not all fun and smiles when booze is involved.
The holidays also offer a big jump in alcohol-related car accidents and fatalities, in which drivers are two to three times as likely to die. It’s a rather sobering reality about the impacts of alcohol.
Alcohol is often a point of contention. Many try to justify its use by citing studies saying it has benefits when consumed in moderation. There are studies indicating it can promote cardiovascular health in older adults when it’s consumed moderately.
But how true are they? Well, new research is showing that people who stand to benefit from alcohol are an exception to the norm.
Is Alcohol Beneficial to Your Health?
There are studies showing wine, in moderation, might offer some health benefits. It’s been shown to improve circulation and cognition in older adults, while being a source of flavonoid antioxidants. But these results really don’t present the entire picture.
New research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden is showing only people with a certain genetic makeup experience benefits from moderate alcohol consumption on their cardiovascular system. These people have a greatly decreased risk of developing coronary heart disease, which is terrific, but this genetic makeup is only present in about 15% of humans, so there’s a really good chance you don’t have it.
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What’s even more interesting is that neither alcohol nor the human genotype alone presented any reduction in the risk for heart disease; the benefit is only seen when they are combined. The gene that allows alcohol to be effective in lowering the risk is called CETP, which is known to regulate the process of transporting cholesterol from arteries to the liver. This process helps reduce coronary heart disease. But only people with a specific variation of this gene saw a lower risk.
Is Alcohol Ever Safe?
Even if you have the CETP genetic variation, there are still a number of health hazards associated with alcohol. For example, it’s a known carcinogen and is associated with a number of cancers, including breast cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and more. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a report saying that no amount of alcohol—even moderate amounts—is safe.
Cancer risk and alcohol have a dose-dependent relationship, meaning the more a person drinks, the higher their risk is. So if you’re a regular drinker, someone who has one or two alcoholic beverages a day, your risk for the cancers mentioned above is greater than someone who has one or two drinks per week.
Furthermore, alcohol makes people more prone to personal injury and other accidents. It can cause emotional swings, including depression (alcohol is classified as a depressant), which can lead to mental and personal struggles. It can also create friction amongst loved ones, as a couple of drinks can make people a little quicker with the tongue. I’m sure you’ve attended a holiday event where someone’s had a little too much to drink and said a little too much! It can result in isolation, arguments, hurt feelings, and regret.
Enjoy the Holidays
Alcohol is hard to avoid, especially during this time of year. But if you’re going to drink, don’t kid yourself: you’re not doing your body any good. If you find yourself at a number of events this season, don’t feel obligated to drink. Keep some events “dry” and maybe have a drink or two at others. Also, space out your alcoholic beverages by consuming water or another non-alcoholic beverage in-between each alcoholic drink.
Finally, if you do elect to drink, please don’t drive. Your ability to operate a vehicle decreases substantially after even one or two drinks, so don’t risk it.
Have fun this holiday season and stay safe!
Sources for This Article:
“New Year, Old Myths, New Fatalities: Alcohol-Related Traffic Deaths Jump During Christmas and New Year’s,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism web site, December 2013; http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/RethinkHoliday/NIAAA_NYE_Fact_Sheet.htm, last accessed November 21, 2014.
Stokowski, L., “No Amount of Alcohol is Safe,” Medscape web site, April 30, 2014; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/824237.
Mehlig, K., et al., “CETP TaqlB genotype modifies the association between alcohol and coronary heart disease: The INTERGENE case-control study,” Alcohol November 2014; 48)7): 695–700.
Wake Forest Medical Center, “Regular Moderate Alcohol Consumption Intake Has Cognitive Benefits in Older Adults,” ScienceDaily web site, July 13, 2009; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713114506.htm, last accessed November 21, 2014.