Alcohol and Your Health- To Drink or Not to Drink

For years we have been hearing results of surveys that have told us that minimal drinking actually has a positive effect on your health. One glass of red wine per day is, or was, supposed to be beneficial on several different levels. Unfortunately to drink or not to drink is becoming a difficult question to answer, especially since the latest studies have linked even a little drinking of alcohol to an increase in developing certain types of cancer.

In one of these studies, researchers have found that women who have one drink per day have an overall higher risk of developing certain types of cancers such as breast, liver, rectum, throat, mouth and esophagus cancers. In the meantime, there are several different studies from the past that have shown heart health and alcohol have a positive relationship.

So, what does this mean? Who do you believe? While some experts disagree on some answers, they do agree that anyone with a dependency issue with regards to alcohol and women who are pregnant should not drink alcohol. Following are some opinions they have on general health and alcohol consumption.

The research on health and alcohol use suggests some harm and some benefit. Studies show a link to breast and liver cancer with the consumption of alcohol as well as to other cancers. Reduction of alcohol intake can reduce your incidence of head, neck, and colorectal cancer, but there seems to be a benefit of alcohol and heart health.

Doctor Arthur Klatsky, former practicing cardiologist and now a investigator for research, says that there isn’t one answer for everyone. “It must be individualized according to a specific person and it is crucial to take into consideration age, sex, specific medical conditions, and family history. There is not a one size fits all answer.”

For example, a 60 year old man who has given up smoking but has a family history of heart attacks, a less than ideal cholesterol level and no dependency issues with alcohol decides to have a glass of wine per day with dinner…well he would be better off continuing this practice.

On the other hand, a 25 year old, health conscious woman with no risk for heart disease, who drinks very little should not boost her wine intake just for heart health. It just isn’t going to do any good for 40-50 years. For men 40 and older and women 50 and older there are benefits from alcohol for heart health with moderate drinking. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

Considering alcohol and cancer risk only, studies show new potential links and studies have shown the link for many decades. There seems to be a clear link to alcohol consumption and cancer of the head and neck, especially among cigarette smokers.

“We can confidently say that even moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a modestly higher risk for breast and colorectal cancer. If you don’t drink there is no reason to start. If you are someone who drinks and you’re a woman, limit drinking to one a day; if a man, to two a day” says Susan Gapstur, PhD, MPH and V/P for epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, Atlanta. If you are at a high risk for cancer you may want to limit yourself to less than that.

A family history of certain types of cancers, such as breast, head or neck may be a good reason to limit your intake or to consider abstaining from drinking alcohol all together, with the exceptions of special occasions. This advice is equally for both men and women. Alcohol combined with tobacco especially boosts the risk for head and neck cancers. However, those with a family history of only heart disease may do well with moderate drinking as it seems to be a benefit.

Research is showing that there does indeed seem to be a gender gap with developing or increasing your risk to getting cancer, but experts tend to disagree on to the extent of this. For example, even light to moderate drinking is associated with female breast cancer but for men light to moderate drinking doesn’t seem to have any effect on an increased risk to cancer. It is not protective, but it will not increase the risk. This is generally true, but living in an area that has high pollutant levels may also pose an increased risk of cancer.

When all is said and done we have to read the evidence, study the science and look at our own individual situation, health and history to determine what is best for us. The research seems to point out there is no exact science that can determine that one drink per day is fine for everyone. Nothing is safe for everyone but there is a sensible level of drinking that must be tailored to the individual. Sensible does not mean “saving” them up and then drinking a weeks worth of alcohol in two days. That is considered binge drinking and is not considered healthy for anyone.

Is it better to drink a little each day or just twice or three times a week? Experts do not agree on this either some saying, to be on the safe side a glass of wine twice a week whereas others say just a little each day is healthier. Again, do what you need to do to get this right for you as an individual.

The original article, which has been rewritten, came from the website Web-MD.

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