John JuergensWine a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?

It seems like not a month goes by that we donít hear another report on the health effects of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. And lately we have been hearing that wine might have some special components that makes it more effective than beer and spirits. The basic question is, can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away? The answer: Maybe.

We know a lot about how alcohol affects the body, but we are just in the early stages of understanding the effects it has on preventing or causing diseases of the cardiovascular system, the digestive tract, and cancer. Without getting into all the technical details, below is a summary of what we currently know and what we think we know. Those effects that we think we know about but still need more study are presented in italics.

  • Within 30 minutes of taking a drink, the alcohol will have been distributed to every organ in the body.
  • Alcohol addiction is a real disease, not just a lack of will power or moral decay
  • Moderate drinkers (1-2 drinks per day) show reduced risk of stroke. Wine seems to have a greater protective effect than beer or spirits.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption can reduce risk of heart disease by 30% or more.
  • People who drink moderately have less heart disease and fewer heart attacks than heavy drinkers and non-drinkers.
  • Wine can prevent the digestive tract from some infectious bacteria such as cholera.
  • Wine contains chemicals that seem to be able to protect the digestive tract against cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol use is probably linked to some types of cancer of the throat and mouth.
  • It is not clear whether moderate drinking can increase the risk of beast cancer.
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome is very rare. There is no evidence of harm to the fetus from an occasional glass of wine at any time during pregnancy
  • All types of alcoholic beverages can have a protective effect against heart disease and high blood cholesterol. Wine might have additional benefits.
  • We can not say that everyone will benefit from drinking a little alcohol every day. Some people on certain kinds of medicines and with certain kinds of health problems should never drink alcohol.
  • Never make big changes in your drinking habits, either increasing or decreasing, without first talking about it with a doctor who is well informed about alcohol and health.
  • Use the philosophy of "healthy drinking" rather than "drinking for health". Moderate drinking on a regular basis is be far more healthy than binge or excessive drinking for most people.

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