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Is Alcohol Bad For My Health In Moderation?

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There are tons of benefits to alcohol – we use it as a way to cap off a long day, a drink to pair with our meal, and yes, as a social lubricant. But what does it do to our health? We all know that too much alcohol results in bad effects such as dehydration, hangovers, or worse, dependency. But what about alcohol in moderation? It turns out that the answer is a little more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no."

Alcohol’s Effect on Disease

As this New York Times article points out, alcohol has a different effect on different diseases. For example, drinking curbs cardiovascular illnesses, but studies also show that consumption is linked to breast cancer in women. Overall, though, light drinking seems to have a protective effect on cancer, while heavy drinking increases the risk of cancer. The point here is that as long as you aren’t overdoing it, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

“In Moderation”

Part of the problem of drinking in moderation is defining what exactly “in moderation” means. For one person, that could mean one drink a night, while for someone else, that could mean three times as much – a notable difference. This Harvard article agrees with the trickiness of the term, and even admits that many professional studies have differing ideas of what moderate drinking can mean. In the end, the article suggests that moderate drinking means no more than two drinks for mean per day and no more than one a day for women.

It Depends on What You’re Drinking

A great Forbes article lays out further meddlesome details to the healthiness of drinking. Besides your gender, there are a few other factors to consider when you’re trying to drink moderately. For instance, the differences in alcohol content among different drinks, and even different wines, is something to keep an eye on. So is your portion size and how much food you’ve had to eat that day.

The Benefits

Beside the personal and social benefits of drinking, there are health benefits to minimal drinking. The Mayo Clinic tells us that a little alcohol can reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, it does note that this evidence isn’t certain. Drinking may only reduce the chances of these illnesses, not rid you of them completely. Perhaps most interestingly, this advice includes the tip that if you don’t currently drink, you shouldn’t pick it up just for the possible health benefits.
It’s a tough issue, isn’t it? And here you thought you were going to get a nice answer all wrapped in a bow. If you’re looking for a guideline to stick to, here’s one for you: light drinking – one or two portioned alcoholic drinks on a full stomach per day – is probably healthy for you. If you’re concerned about how your habits are affecting your health, as with anything health-related, ask your doctor. He or she will be able to give you the best advice according to your situation.

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