You often hear how bad drinking alcohol can be for your health and safety. Sure, drinking too much or getting behind the wheel after a drink is dangerous, but what about the odd glass of wine every weekend? Can that actually be healthy for you?
There are studies out there that suggest that a glass of wine contains healthy antioxidants, that beer can decrease your risk of heart disease, or that whiskey is good for your cholesterol. It has been recorded that people who enjoy a couple of drinks a week actually live longer, but is this really due to the alcohol, or is it just good genetics?
Drinking in moderation
The answer is one we’ve all heard before – drink in moderation. Excessive drinking can cause weight gain, heart problems, certain types of cancer and a range of other health conditions. Enjoying a drink or two on the weekends won’t have any consequences on your health, provided you stay below the recommended daily limit.
With conflicting reports and public health messages about alcohol, it can be a confusing topic. However, The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa suggest that women should not drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day and that men should not have more than two.
This is still considered moderate drinking – consuming one or two drinks every day. Light drinking is defined as one to three drinks per week. Heavy drinking is considered to be consuming more than two drinks every day.
Other factors affect health
Despite the health benefits of certain alcohols or the health risks associated with excessive drinking – we can never generalise and say that light drinking can help with longevity. Other factors may account for the good health of light drinkers, such as better diets, more exercise or higher incomes.
Studying the effects of alcohol on health is hard because there are numerous other factors that could lead to both good and bad health. Similarly, sometimes former heavy drinkers are placed in the same category as non-drinkers during these studies. The former drinkers have already done some damage to their health but because they no longer drink, they are lumped in with the more healthy non-drinkers.
This can skew the results in favour of light drinkers. Despite this, a study conducted in Northern Ireland showed that light drinkers have a lower risk of death than non-drinkers. It suggested that non-drinkers are 25% more likely to die at a younger age. However, the risk of developing cancer also increased among study participants the more alcohol they consumed.
When researchers looked at the combined risk of developing cancer or dying at a younger age, light drinkers still came out on top. Researchers cannot agree on what is considered to be a ‘low-risk’ level of drinking, but they do agree that drinking in moderation is safe.
If you already drink, cut down as much as possible. Don’t start drinking more because of the apparent benefits either. One or two drinks per week should be just enough to reduce your stress levels but maintain a healthy body at the same time.
Make the most of your time on earth by looking after your body. We share ways to improve your health through the lifestyle choices you make. It’s all about healthy living and being the best version of yourself.
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