How alcohol impacts an individual’s health depends on two things: who’s drinking it and how much.
Most moderate (for women one drink a day, for men two) drinkers reap overall benefits, particularly in the area of cardiovascular health.
Still, moderate drinking can increase the risk of both breast and colon cancer.
Heavy drinkers have an increased rate of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, cirrhosis and dependence and should cut way back on consumption or quit entirely.
Pregnant women also should quit entirely to avoid the risk of brain damage to their child.
Here’s what’s considered a drink: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor.
5 tips to stay on the healthy side of drinking
1. If you don’t drink, there’s no need to start. There are other ways to boost cardiovascular health, such as getting more physical exercise, maintain a healthy weight and consume healthy fats and whole grains.
2. Drink whatever you enjoy in moderation. There are no significant differences in the benefits derived from wine or beer or hard liquor.
3. Take a multivitamin with folic acid. Alcohol depletes the body’s store of folate, a 400 mc daily dose of which helps lower the risk of heart disease and cancers of the colon and breast.
4. If you think you have a drinking problem, consult a health professional.
5. If you’ve been out drinking, give your car keys to a designated driver who’s not been drinking alcohol.
Source: Harvard School of Public Health The Nutrition Source, December 2012