Many Americans enjoy their alcohol, spending close to $99 billion every year on beer alone. Whether or not you drink, it is important to be knowledgeable about the health benefits and consequences of beer consumption. Talk to your doctor about how alcohol relates to your health.
While drinking too much can increase your risk of certain health complications, moderate consumption of around 1 to 2 drinks a day may provide some benefits. To start, here are a few reasons to cheer for beer.
Reduce risk of memory related illnesses
It might be surprising to find out that moderate beer consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s in multiple studies. One study of around 6,000 adults found that moderate drinkers had a 54 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who didn’t drink.
Unlike hard liquor, beer in moderate amounts may be beneficial to bone density and health. Researchers suggest that silicon might be responsible for this effect of beer. Postmenopausal women and people with rheumatoid arthritis are at a greater risk of bone loss and should consult their doctor.
Reduce risk of heart disease
A growing body of research highlights the potential heart-related benefits of drinking alcohol, including beer. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in America, and moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to a 40 to 60 percent reduction in heart disease risk.
Reduce risk of kidney stone
Kidney stones can be quite painful and have been linked with other disruptive conditions, such as an overactive bladder. Diet plays a significant role in the formation of kidney stones. Beer intake has been linked to the greatest reduction in risk (40 percent), beating coffee, wine and tea.
Reduce risk of some cancers
While high alcohol intake is associated with a greater risk of several cancers, moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of kidney cancer and lymphoma. One large study found a 30 percent reduced risk of kidney cancer in those who drank moderately compared to those who didn’t drink at all.
Vitamins and antioxidants
Wine is often praised for its high antioxidant content, yet beer contains a comparable amount of antioxidants and more niacin, folate and B vitamins. Antioxidants help prevent or delay cell damage by neutralizing free radicals in the body, but more research is needed to understand the effects of beer.
Reduced risk of diabetes
Emerging research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of developing diabetes. According to one meta-analysis of 15 studies, drinking one to two drinks a day might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 25 percent, while heavy consumption showed no benefits
Stroke is a serious medical event that happens when blood flow to part of the brain stops. Light to moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to lower risks for high blood pressure, which increases stroke risk, and to a general reduction in the risk of stroke.
One review of research concluded that moderate drinkers may have lower death rates than both those who don’t drink and heavy drinkers. The impact of moderate drinking on stroke, diabetes and heart disease may be responsible for these lower rates.
While there may be some health benefits to drinking beer in moderation, there is another side to the story. Irresponsible or excessive drinking, especially over the course of several years, can lead to severe health issues. Here are some of the health consequences of drinking in excess.
The liver plays a crucial role in processing food into energy and nutrients, including in the breakdown of alcohol. Unfortunately, heavy long-term alcohol consumption can take a serious toll on the liver, potentially leading to fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Heavy long-term alcohol use can potentially lead to alcohol addiction, characterized by mental and physiological dependence. This occurs through a gradual change in the balance of chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure, control and judgement, which can lead to further overdrinking.
Alcohol and mental health
It is not entirely clear whether alcohol abuse leads to depression or depression leads to alcohol abuse, but the two often appear together. Regular drinking can reduce levels of the chemical serotonin, which helps regulate mood. Talk to your doctor if you drink excessively or are feeling depressed.
Weight gain and obesity
Moderate beer consumption has not been linked to weight gain, but heavy drinking on a regular basis is a different story. Drinking three or more beers a day can quickly add up to more than a quarter of your daily recommended caloric intake while contributing relatively little nutritional benefits.
While moderate beer consumption may be linked with a lower risk of kidney cancer and lymphoma, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of developing mouth, throat, breast, liver and colon cancer. It is generally recommended to keep consumption to under two drinks a day.
Memory and dementia
Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to lower rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s; however, the opposite is true for excessive consumption. Multiple studies have highlighted the role regular heavy alcohol drinking can play in increasing cognitive decline and the prevalence of dementia.
Suppressed immune system
Excessive drinking, even over the course of a single occasion, can weaken the immune system and make the body more prone to infections such as the common cold and flu. Chronic excessive drinkers are at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms and catching severe diseases like pneumonia.
Injury and death while intoxicated
Drinking alcohol can lead to lowered inhibitions and poor judgement. Almost a third of driving-related deaths in America are attributed to alcohol. Globally, alcohol-related illness and injury result in an estimated 2.5 million deaths every year. If you drink, be sure to have a safe way to get home.
Complications with conditions and medication
Even moderate alcohol intake can cause problems for people with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications. Some people with neuromuscular conditions like MS report worse symptoms after only one drink. Learn how alcohol interacts with your condition or medication.
Moderation is key
Most of the potential health benefits of drinking beer were seen only in those who drank moderately (1-2 drinks a day). Furthermore, most of the problems came from drinking in excess. It is important to be aware of your drinking habits and knowledgeable of the possible health benefits and consequences.
Reviewed by Joseph V. Madia, M.D.
Source: Daily RX