Health

Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine and distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer strokes, diabetes, arthritis, enlarged prostate, dementia (including Alzheimer's disease), and several major cancers.

Recent News

What is Moderate Drinking?

Canadian guidelines for moderate consumption of alcohol recommend that, on any particular occasion, men consume no more than four drinks and that women consume no more than three.

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Drinking Alcohol and Greater Longevity

Drinking alcohol was associated with a 48% reduced risk of death from coronary artery disease among men compared to abstainers and infrequent drinkers and with a 38% reduction in such risk among women in his prospective study of nearly 150,000 Norwegians.

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Moderate Social Drinking May be Good for Your Health

It is a myth that young men and women seen enjoying a couple of glasses of wine, beer or cocktails at a cocktail lounge at the end of a long day must be mentally ill.

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WeightWatchers Approves Drinking Alcohol

WeightWatchers has replaced it traditional point system with one that permits dieting members to consume alcoholic drinks.

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Drinking Alcohol Reduces Weight Gain

Women who consumed one or two alcoholic drinks on a daily basis gained less weight during mid-life than did abstainers, according to medical researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

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Alcohol and Depression

Research has found that moderate drinkers are at lower risk of suffering depression than are alcohol abstainers.

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Some Background

Alcohol has been used medicinally throughout recorded history; its medicinal properties are mentioned 191 times in the Old and New Testaments.1 As early as the turn of the century there was evidence that moderate consumption of alcohol was associated with a decrease in the risk of heart attack.2 And the evidence of health benefits of moderate consumption has continued to grow over time.

Reviews of research evidence report a strong, consistent relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduction in cardiovascular disease in general and coronary artery disease in particular.4 On the basis of its extensive review of research, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reported that moderate drinkers have the greatest longevity. It also found that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health, resulting in a sharp decrease in heart disease risk (40%-60%).5 This is important because cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and heart disease kills about one million Americans each and every year.6

The health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption have long been known. One of the earliest scientific studies on the subject was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1904.3

The Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wrote that "Numerous well-designed studies have concluded that moderate drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health," and the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that "The lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day."7 A World Health Organization Technical Committee on Cardiovascular Disease asserted that the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced death from heart disease could no longer be doubted.8 But the benefits are not limited, important as they are, to reductions in heart disease.

Alcohol vs. Lifestyle

Why drink to reduce the risk of heart disease? Wouldn't eating a good diet, exercising, and losing weight do the same thing?

No, it wouldn't. The moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be more effective than most other lifestyle changes that are used to lower the risk of heart and other diseases. For example, the average person would need to follow a very strict low-fat diet, exercise vigorously on a regular basis, eliminate salt from the diet, lose a substantial amount of weight, and probably begin medication in order to lower cholesterol by 30 points or blood pressure by 20 points.

But medical research suggests that alcohol can have a greater impact on heart disease than even these hard-won reductions in cholesterol levels or blood pressure. Only cessation of smoking is more effective. Additionally, other medical research suggests that adding alcohol to a healthful diet is more effective than just following the diet alone.9

Longevity

Moderate drinkers tend to live longer than those who either abstain or drink heavily.

General Health

Moderate drinkers tend to enjoy better health than do either abstainers or heavy drinkers.

Hospitals Serve Alcohol

Nearly three-quarters of the teaching hospitals in the United States serve alcoholic beverages to their patients.38

Heart Health

Medical research has demonstrated a strong relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduction in cardiovascular disease in general and coronary artery disease in particular.41

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that moderate drinking is beneficial to heart health, resulting in a sharp decrease in heart disease risk (40%-60%).42 This is important because cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and heart disease kills about one million Americans each and every year.43

The Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism wrote that "Numerous well-designed studies have concluded that moderate drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health," and the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that "The lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day."44 A World Health Organization Technical Committee on Cardiovascular Disease asserted that the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and reduced death from heart disease can no longer be doubted.45

Moderate Drinkers are Less Likely to Suffer Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attacks (Acute Myocardial Infarctions) than are Abstainers or Heavy Drinkers.

The Moderate Consumption of Alcohol Increases the Survivability of Heart Attacks

Alcohol Abstainers Who Begin Drinking Reduce Their Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Frequent Drinkers Enjoy Greater Heart-Health Benefits than Those Who Drink Less Often

Exercising Can't Replace Benefits of Drinking in Moderation

Moderate drinking and exercise are cumulative in their positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Doing one is better than nothing, but doing both is the best choice of all and dramatically reduces the risk death from heart attack. The same is also found for all-cause mortality.72

How Alcohol Promotes Good Heart Health

The moderate consumption of alcohol promotes good heart health in a number of ways, including the following:

Strokes

Abstainers Have Much Higher Risk of Stroke than Drinkers92

Abstainers Have Much Higher Risk of Stroke than Drinkers

Alcohol & Weight

Alcohol contains calories, but drinking alcohol doesn't lead to weight gain according to extensive medical research, and many studies report a small reduction in weight for women who drink. Learn more at Alcohol, Calories & Weight.

Diabetes

Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementia

Arthritis

Enlarged Prostate (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia or BPH)

Osteoporosis

Gallbladder Disease (Gallstones or Cholelithiasis)

Cancers

Kidney Cancer (also called renal cell carcinoma)

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (often called Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma)

Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Thyroid Cancer

Other

The moderate consumption of alcohol appears to be beneficial to reducing or preventing other diseases and health problems, including the following:

The Common Cold. Research has found moderate drinkers to be more resistant than abstainers to five strains of the common cold virus. Those who consumed two to three drinks daily had an 85% greater resistance. Those drinking one to two drinks daily had a 65% lower risk and those who drank less than daily had a 30% lower risk than abstainers. 175

Intermittent Claudication (IC). In a study of 18,339 observations, researchers found that drinking alcohol in moderation significantly reduces the risk of intermittent claudication. IC is associated with a two- to four-fold increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.176

Metabolic Syndrome. To examine the relationship between alcohol consumption and metabolic syndrome, a meta-analysis was conducted of seven studies with 22,000 participants. Metabolic syndrome is a dangerous cluster of risk factors that increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The analysis found that drinking alcohol in moderation significantly reduced the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. The positive effects existed among men who consumed up to a little over three drink per day and among women who consumed up to one and one-half drinks each day.177

Peripheral Artery Disease. Harvard researchers found moderate drinkers to be almost 1/3 less likely to suffer Peripheral Artery Disease (a significant cause of death among the elderly) than those consuming less than one drink per week.178

The list continues with many others, such as essential tremors,179 hepatitis A,180 kidney stones,181 macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness),182 Pancreatic Cancer,183 Parkinson's disease,184 poor physical condition in the elderly,185 stress and depression,186 and type B gastritis.187

What Is Moderation?

Medical researchers generally describe moderation as one to three drinks per day. It appears that consuming less than about half a drink per day is associated with only very small health benefits. Four or five drinks may be moderate for large individuals but excessive for small or light people. Because of their generally smaller size and other biological differences, the typical woman should generally consume 25 to 30 percent less than the average man. 114 And, of course, recovering alcoholics, those with any adverse reactions to alcohol, and those advised against drinking by their physicians should abstain.

Drinking in moderation has been described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as a man consuming four drinks on any day with an average of 14 drinks per week. For women, it is consuming three drinks in any one day and an average of seven drinks per week.

Learn more about Alcohol Equivalence and visit Standard Drinks.

A standard alcoholic drink is:

Harvard's Healthy Eating Pyramid, produced by the Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating, was co-developed by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health. It is based on the best available scientific knowledge and recommends drinking alcohol in moderation (unless there is a good reason to abstain). 116

Harvard Food Pyramid

Drinking patterns appear to be as important as the amounts consumed. "The key to healthy, moderate consumption is a regular, one to three drinks per day pattern."117 However, drinking a "weeks worth" of alcohol over a period of a few hours would be unhealthful, even dangerous, and clearly to be avoided.

All of the many health benefits of drinking apply only to moderate consumption - - never to heavy drinking. To the contrary, heavy drinking is associated with reduced longevity and increased risk of a diversity of diseases. Unfortunately, there really can be too much of a good thing.

Salud, skoal, a votre sante', prost, l'chayim, or, in English, "to your health," but all in moderation!

This website provides no suggestions or recommendations whatsoever about consuming alcohol or any other matter and none should be inferred.

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