One of the greatest health “urban legends” about alcohol is that, in small amounts, it promotes health and longevity. The truth is that there have been few scientific studies to back up this myth.
Despite this, red wine has gotten a lot of good press as being healthy. It is considered the healthiest type of alcohol because it contains resveratrol, an antioxidant associated with longevity.
Red wine is also associated with the Mediterranean diet. It has been touted as a heart-healthy diet that lowers the risk of diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. However, don’t confuse alcohol with the component of the Mediterranean diet responsible for these protective health benefits. It’s much more likely to be the copious amounts of fresh veggies, minimal sweets and healthy fats.
If you want to know the real facts about the effects of alcohol read the article below. You’ll find out that the Mediterranean diet is healthy despite the inclusion of red wine and not because of it. So if you’re going to drink, do it consciously. Know the truth and know the risks.
Moderate to Light Drinking
No one can deny that abusing alcohol or drinking in excess can lead to a variety of health problems. But what about moderate to light drinking? Is it really a problem? Can it do that much harm? And doesn’t alcohol encourage relaxation in people?
Alcohol may melt away minor stresses and tensions. However, there is a price the body pays in exchange for that temporary relief. So let’s look at the long-term effects of imbibing.
Even to the light, casual drinker, the article below provides a sober look at alcohol’s detrimental effects. Not just its effects on the body, but more surprisingly, its destructive effects on the brain.
According to the article below, written by leading health expert, Dr. Mercola, alcohol affects brain health in a larger way.
Many of us know that alcohol is not healthy for the liver. And a few of us know about alcohol’s detrimental effect on the balance of blood sugar and hormones. But not a lot of people know that studies show that alcohol can cause brain shrinkage.
Here’s an eye-opening excerpt from the article below:
“Using Magnetic Resonance Induction (MRI) studies, they found a linear negative effect of alcohol consumption on brain volume. They concluded that the brain shrinkage reported as a result of low to moderate alcohol consumption.”
No need to panic. These effects are usually reversible in healthy people who consume alcohol lightly to moderately. However, in heavy drinkers, the risk of brain damage may be more severe and permanent.
There are many alternatives to reaping the immediate benefits of alcohol. For example, you can get resveratrol from green tea, blueberries or supplements. There are healthier ways to melt stress as well. You can take a walk, play with a child or pet, laugh with a friend, or take a nap.
Alcohol as Stress Relief
Also, using alcohol as stress relief may breed dependence, especially in times of stress.
It’s true that alcohol is one of the most accepted drugs of our time. Often the hardest one to avoid, especially at social gatherings, but imbibing consciously is the way to go.
When it comes to your health, knowledge is power and health myths can be dangerous. So power yourself by reading about the effects of alcohol on your body and brain.
Mercola also lists some ways to counteract the effects of alcohol on your brain and health. Take note of these if you do choose to indulge,
Read more below:
Many know that studies have suggested that alcohol in moderation may promote heart health, and even ward off diabetes and dementia. But fewer people know that no study has ever proved a causal relationship between moderate drinking and lower risk of death, only that the two often go together.
In other words, it is just as likely that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy.
Dr. Tim Naimi, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that, “The bottom line is there has not been a single study done on moderate alcohol consumption and mortality outcomes that is a ‘gold standard’ kind of study — the kind of randomized controlled clinical trial that we would be required to have in order to approve a new pharmaceutical agent.”
Alcohol has been tied to breast cancer, can lead to accidents even when consumed in small amounts, and is linked with liver disease, cancers, heart damage and strokes when consumed in larger amounts.
Some of the WEAKEST science we have is epidemiological observations. That is precisely the type of science that has been used to support the idea that drinking wine in moderation is healthy for you.
Additionally, to examine the effects of alcohol on the brain, researchers examined eight men and seven women who drank alcohol through a straw while lying in an MRI scanner.
Only 6 minutes after consuming an amount of alcohol equivalent to three beers, changes had already taken place in their brain cells, Live Science reports. Their brains began to run on the sugar in alcohol instead of glucose, the normal brain food.
The concentration of substances such as creatine, which protects brain cells, also decreased as the concentration of alcohol increased. Choline, a component of cell membranes, was also reduced. This probably means that alcohol triggers changes in the composition of cell membranes.
I’m sure you’ve heard that alcohol can be beneficial when consumed in low to moderate quantities (about 1-3 standard glasses of alcohol per day), but there are thousands of studies on alcohol consumption and its effects on your health, and researchers still can’t prove that moderate drinking leads to a longer, healthier life.
What they have found, however, is plenty of evidence showing structural damage in your brain as well as other detrimental effects, even when consumed in small quantities.
I think that is far more telling than anything else. It’s hard to imagine any significant health benefit that could outweigh its destructive influence on your brain.
Although some research points to the possibility that moderate alcohol consumption may actually reduce your risk of dementia, numerous studies clearly indicate that alcohol consumption causes too many directly negative neurological complications to say that it has any real benefit.
How Alcohol Damages Your Brain
In the study mentioned above, researchers discovered that creatine and choline concentrations in your brain decrease as the concentration of alcohol increases. Creatine is involved in energy metabolism and protects your brain cells, and choline is a component of your cell membranes.
Researcher Armin Biller said:
“That probably indicates that alcohol triggers changes in the composition of cell membranes.
Our follow-ups on the next day showed that the shifts in brain metabolites after moderate consumption of alcohol by healthy persons are completely reversible. However, we assume that the brain’s ability to recover from the effect of alcohol decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases.
The acute effects demonstrated in our study could possibly form the basis for the permanent brain damage that is known to occur in alcoholics. “
Another recent study published in the April issue of Human Psychopharmacology addresses the chronic effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption on the structural and functional properties of your brain.
Using Magnetic Resonance Induction (MRI) studies, they found a linear negative effect of alcohol consumption on brain volume. They concluded that the brain shrinkage reported as a result of low to moderate alcohol consumption offers more support for the contention that alcohol is, overall, more detrimental than beneficial to your brain health and cognition.
Yet another study published in the March/April issue of Alcohol & Alcoholism adds to the most recent lineup of studies linking regular alcohol consumption with various forms of brain damage.
In that study the researchers concluded that:
“Even heavy social drinkers who have no specific neurological or hepatic problems show signs of regional brain damage and cognitive dysfunction.
Changes are more severe and other brain regions are damaged in patients who have additional vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency (Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome).”
Other Health Hazards of Alcohol Consumption
My position is that it’s never a good idea to drink alcohol.
After all, alcohol is a neurotoxin — it can poison your brain. We don’t recommend moderate amounts of alcohol either becase alcohol can:
- Make you more vulnerable to various preventable cancers.
- Harm your body’s delicate hormonal balance.
- Cause liver damage.
It goes without saying that one should avoid entirely during pregnancy as it can cause severe damage to your unborn child.
In addition, alcohol consumption has also been found to blunt the responsiveness of your hypothalamus to immune and other non-immune signals. An impaired physical stress response is believed to affect several body systems. This includes your immune system’s ability to fight infection, and, again, can hinder your brain cells’ ability to learn and remember.
What About Red Wine?
Red wine is often cited as being a good source of resveratrol, a potent antioxidant that has been shown to increase lifespan in a manner similar to calorie restriction. But what is frequently overlooked is the fact that there are many other, far safer sources of resveratrol.
For example, instead of red wine, you can use a grape seed supplement such as Purple Defense. Because although resveratrol is found in grapes, it is likely that there are other accessory micronutrients and trace elements that enhance resveratrol’s benefits, so taking the entire whole unprocessed food (minus the carbohydrate loaded sweet pulp) will give you the most benefit. Raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts also contain resveratrol.
Other potent sources of antioxidants include grape pomace, blueberries, and green tea.
Red wine is definitely NOT your best source of antioxidants, as some studies would suggest. There are major benefits to consuming the bioflavonoids that are present in grape seeds and grape skins. This does NOT apply in the alcohol caused by fermenting the sugar in the grape pulp.
Consuming large amounts of wine will also increase your insulin levels, which will eventually have a negative impact on your health.
How to REALLY Boost Your Brain Health
Drinking alcohol to reduce your risk of heart disease or dementia is clearly not your best option.
Heart disease, for example, is actually fairly easy to prevent by implementing simple lifestyle changes, which I’ve discussed at length in previous articles.
Now let’s look at fighting age-related cognitive decline. There are far healthier, safer, and proven ways to stay mentally sharp into old age. Here are a few of my most effective strategies:
- Eat a nutritious diet, paying particular attention to avoiding sugar and consuming plenty of vegetables.
- Eat plenty of high-quality omega-3 fats.
- Avoid most fish and remove mercury from your body.
- Avoid aluminum found in drinking water, antiperspirants, cookware, etc.
- Exercise regularly.
- Challenge your mind with activities such as traveling, learning to play an instrument or doing crossword puzzles.
- Try Purple Defense, an all-natural supplement made from muscadine grape seeds; natures number one source for resveratrol, which can cross your blood-brain barrier to help protect brain cells