Most people would probably agree that alcohol isn’t generally considered to be good for your health. It’s good for a few things, surely. Like turning your initial reluctance to dance at your cousin’s wedding into a wildly enthusiastic participation in the conga line, or enabling you to leave the karaoke bar awe-stricken by your passionate rendition of “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Okay, so maybe the beneficial qualities of alcohol in those scenarios are debatable. But even if alcohol doesn’t improve your karaoke skills, it may actually improve your health.
Wine is a great source of the much lauded resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in the skin of grapes. According to many studies, resveratrol has health benefits like gangbusters: it’s thought to prevent blood clots from forming, lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, reduce inflammation and damage to blood vessels, and even posses anti-aging properties. No wonder Bacchus was immortal.
A Pint a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Research has shown that the old slogan “Guinness is good for you” may be less of a fanciful marketing ploy and more truthful that one might think; a University of Wisconsin study indicated that ingesting one pint of “the black stuff” might be as effective as taking a low dose aspirin in preventing heart attack-causing blood clots (the study neglected to mention another effect of drinking Guinness: it’ll put hair on your chest. Or at least tastes like it might…).
Less Sicker with Liquor
Even plain old hard liquor confers a few health benefits. It thins the blood and increases HDL, or “good” cholesterol, which contributes to the prevention of heart disease. Now, keep in mind that when it comes to cocktails, the mixer is often the unhealthiest part — so if you can, try to drink your liquor neat or with a no-calorie mixer like diet or club soda.
Too Much of a Good Thing
While all of this is great news for occasional or casual drinkers, don’t start lining up tequila shots in celebration just yet. The amount of alcohol needed to attain these health benefits is extremely small — one drink per day for women, and one to two for men. What’s more, these benefits are instantly negated by over-indulging. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, cardiovascular disease, anemia, dementia, cancer, and other serious health risks, and some studies show that even moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a modestly higher risk for some cancers.
Even one night of heavy drinking can release harmful chemicals called endotoxins into your body, negatively impacting your immune response and preventing you from absorbing key nutrients. So if you knock back a couple glasses of wine on Saturday night and can’t say “resveratrol” without getting tongue-tied, consider that a hint that your antioxidant intake is moot, and close out your bar tab.
The health benefits of alcohol are no reason to start drinking if you’re currently a teetotaler, but if you’re already the type of person who enjoys an adult beverage from time to time, take satisfaction in the fact that an occasional pint, pinot, or pina colada, may actually do a body good. I’ll cheers to that!