Tag Archives: alcohol abuse

Alcohol’s Overhyped Health Benefits – Tufts

Drinking too much alcohol is clearly bad for health, but is drinking a moderate amount beneficial? The jury is out.

Some people feel a drink at the end of a tough day helps them unwind and relax. Others may see a daily glass of red wine as a way to boost heart health. This kind of moderate drinking has been associated in some studies with positive health effects, but cause-and-effect evidence is lacking, and alcohol carries serious risks to health and safety. Understanding the science behind the risks and benefits of alcohol consumption can help us make informed decisions about our drinking.

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Red wine is often singled out for potential health benefits. It contains bioactive compounds called polyphenols which have been associated with cardiovascular health. It is important to recognize that all of the potentially beneficial compounds in red wine are also found in other foods and beverages. For example, flavonoids, which account for over 85 percent of the polyphenols in red wine, are common in many vegetables, seeds, nuts, spices, and herbs. Resveratrol, a much-hyped compound being studied for health benefits, is found in grape skins and wine, but also in more than 70 other plant species, including berries, peanuts, and cocoa.

The detrimental effects of excess alcohol intake on heart health are well documented. Drinking a lot over a long time or binge drinking can damage the heart, causing problems including stretching of the heart muscle (cardiomyo-pathy), irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), high blood pressure, and stroke. The potential benefits of red wine drinking, particularly in excess, may therefore be outweighed by potential risks, especially since the beneficial compounds in the wine are easily available from other dietary sources.

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Study shows uptick in U.S. alcohol beverage sales during COVID-19 pandemic

To paraphrase Claude Rains in the movie Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to learn that … “

During the COVID-19 pandemic months of March 2020 to September 2020, U.S. alcohol retail store sales increased compared to usual trends while food services and drinking places sales decreased markedly during the same period, according to a new study at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. These results indicate an increase in home drinking in the U.S. The findings are published online in the journal Alcohol.

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The researchers used alcohol retail store sales data of beer, wine, and liquor store (BWLS) purchases from January 1992 to September 2020 from the Monthly Retail Trade Survey, which provides sales estimates at retail and food services. Alcohol sales changes in the U.S. throughout the COVID-19 pandemic were used as an indicator of at-home drinking.  Calculating variations in monthly sales enabled the authors to show annual differences in monthly BWLS sales between consecutive years from 1992 to 2020.

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Alcohol in moderation may help the heart by calming stress signals in the brain – Study

Moderate alcohol intake — defined as no more than one alcoholic drink for women and two for men per day — has been associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease when compared with individuals who abstain from drinking or partake in excessive drinking, according to a new study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session. It’s also the first study to show that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may be heart protective, in part, by reducing stress-related brain signals based on a subset of patients who underwent brain imaging.

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“We found that stress-related activity in the brain was higher in non-drinkers when compared with people who drank moderately, while people who drank excessively (more than 14 drinks per week) had the highest level of stress-related brain activity,” said Kenechukwu Mezue, MD, a fellow in nuclear cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the study’s lead author. “The thought is that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels and, perhaps through these mechanisms, lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”

While Mezue was quick to caution that these findings should not encourage alcohol use, he said they could open doors to new therapeutics or prescribing stress-relieving activities like exercise or yoga to help minimize stress signals in the brain.

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Light drinking may protect brain function

For the record, I have never had a drinking problem. At my worst, I would down a couple of beers at a meal and maybe an after dinner something. So, I don’t want to be giving an excuse to someone who is on the cusp of a drinking problem with this study.

Light to moderate drinking may preserve brain function in older age, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

The study examined the link between alcohol consumption and changes in cognitive function over time among middle-aged and older adults in the U.S.

“We know there are some older people who believe that drinking a little wine everyday could maintain a good cognitive condition,” said lead author Ruiyuan Zhang, a doctoral student at UGA’s College of Public Health.

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Key brain region for controlling binge drinking found

A team of National Institutes of Health-funded researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has found that deactivating a stress-signaling system in a brain area known for motivation and emotion-related behaviors decreases binge drinking. The study, which was published online in February and is to appear in the May issue of Neuropharmacology, pinpoints a particular system in a specific brain region that can be manipulated to reduce harmful binge drinking.

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The MUSC team was led by Howard C. Becker, Ph.D., director of the Charleston Alcohol Research Center and professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.

“Binge drinking is one of the most common patterns in which alcohol is consumed,” explained Becker. “It’s a risky behavior, and one consequence of repeated binge drinking is increasing risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.”

Further, according to Becker, those who consistently binge drink, particularly during adolescent and college years, have almost 10 times the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.

But how much alcohol must be consumed to qualify a drinking session as a binge?

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What are Threats to Healthy Bones for Both Men and Women?

As we have written in previous posts, both men and women are more subject to osteoporosis as we age. Additionally, everyone knows that women suffer more cases of osteoporosis than men.

Going forward, are there any activities or practices that lead to additional bone loss. The answer is yes, and they affect men and women differently, according to Pam Whitfield, MS, RD, LDN CDE of Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group speaking before a Northwestern Memorial Healthy Transitions Program ® gathering.

The first is our old friend cola drinks. A Framingham Osteoporosis Study covered more than 1400 women and in excess of 1100 men. It was found that higher cola intake, both regular and diet, lowered bone mass density in women, but not men.

The second activity is drinking alcoholic beverages. Chronic alcohol abuse increases bone loss, especially in men. Post-menopausal women with moderate alcohol use have higher bone mass than abstainers. The alcohol doesn’t grow bone tissue, but seems to slow bone tissue loss.

The third activity is smoking. Lung cancer considerations aside, smoking decreased bone density. Women who smoke tend to have earlier menopause because of less estrogen production. Years of smoking and more cigarettes per day increases the risk of fractures. Lastly, healing time is increased in smokers.

To repeat the three elements necessary for healthy bones we need calcium, Vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise.

As much as I enjoy using the rowing machine and Schwinn Airdyne bike in my health club, I am switching to the treadmill for my indoor cardio because that is weight-bearing exercise. Remember, the elliptical machine is not.

Tony

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