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Is Moderate Drinking Actually Good for My Health?

April 13, 2023

We’ve heard for years that moderate drinking is not only okay, but maybe even good for our health. But new information has been uncorked.

A new report has declared that there’s no benefit – just risk – from daily consumption of alcohol.

The news comes as no surprise for J. Craig Allen, MD, vice president of addiction for Hartford HealthCare and medical director of Rushford, part of the system’s Behavioral Health Network. From daily glasses of red wine for heart health to whiskey for reducing blood pressure, Dr. Allen says claims about alcohol and its health impacts have been varied and misleading.

“Alcohol is a poison. It impacts every organ in the body,” he says.

Dr. Allen explains why even moderate drinking isn’t good for us.

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Moderate drinkers beware

The recommendation for moderate drinking is two drinks daily for men and one for women.

The recent report – reviewing 40 years of scientific research, more than 100 studies and five million participants – concludes that the risk of dying prematurely increases significantly for:

  • Women after drinking 25 grams of alcohol a day (1.5 ounces of spirits, two 12-ounce beers or two 5-ounce glasses of wine)
  • Men after just over three alcoholic drinks a day

> Related: 6 Signs Your Drinking Might Be More Than Just a Habit

Women are more affected.

Drinking impacts women more than men. When drinking the same or less than men, women are at higher risk for:

  • Rapid progression in severity and quantity of use
  • Physical and psychological health issues
  • Alcoholic hepatitis, alcohol-related heart disease, blackouts and brain damage
  • Breast cancer. One drink a day raises a woman’s breast cancer risk up to 9%

Drinkers of both sexes, even those drinking moderately, have a higher risk of medical conditions like cancer and atrial fibrillation.

Why is alcohol so bad for you?

“Alcohol is a toxic substance. The initial product when alcohol is metabolized is acetaldehyde, a known carcinogen,” Dr. Allen says. “Alcohol can also negatively impact the cells that make up the heart muscle.”

Ultimately, the toxicity of alcohol can result in numerous diseases and conditions.

“Alcohol is a causal factor in 200 disease and injury conditions,” Dr. Allen says.

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Is it time to give up alcohol for good?

The takeaway for Dr. Allen is less about abstaining completely, and more about informed decision making.

“This doesn’t mean adults shouldn’t drink alcohol. We skydive, we climb mountains, we play contact sports and other things that are not completely safe. But, it’s important to make a conscious and informed decision.”

In Canada, alcohol labels warn users that even moderate drinking can cause health problems, what. Dr. Allen calls a more honest approach.

“I believe in truth in advertising. Alcohol is not a health food. When adults choose to drink or not to drink, they should have current information.”