Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. While current research suggests alcohol use disorder is a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease, the impact alcohol use disorder has on Alzheimer’s disease pathology is an area of continued research.
In a new preclinical study, scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine showed that even modest amounts of alcohol can accelerate brain atrophy, which is the loss of brain cells, and increase the number of amyloid plaques, which are the accumulation of toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s hard to know what to think about the recommendations for alcohol consumption when the narrative around it changes like the wind.
Numerous studies have come out in support of moderate alcohol consumption because of its potential health benefits only to be countered by similar studies arguing that it’s actually more harmful than beneficial, according to Rush University Medical Center.
And it’s not just conflicting research that make decisions about alcohol difficult; other related factors, such as your age, gender and overall health, can further complicate the issue.
So is it OK to have a glass or two of red wine with dinner? Or to enjoy a few beers at the ballgame?
Here, we explain how alcohol affects your body — both positively and negatively — why all alcohol isn’t created equal, and how to make the right choices for your personal health.
Observational research has suggested that light alcohol consumption may provide heart-related health benefits, but in a large study published in JAMA Network Open, alcohol intake at all levels was linked with higher risks of cardiovascular disease. The findings, which are published by a team led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, suggest that the supposed benefits of alcohol consumption may actually be attributed to other lifestyle factors that are common among light to moderate drinkers.
The study included 371,463 adults—with an average age of 57 years and an average alcohol consumption of 9.2 drinks per week—who were participants in the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource containing in-depth genetic and health information. Consistent with earlier studies, investigators found that light to moderate drinkers had the lowest heart disease risk, followed by people who abstained from drinking. People who drank heavily had the highest risk. However, the team also found that light to moderate drinkers tended to have healthier lifestyles than abstainers—such as more physical activity and vegetable intake, and less smoking. Taking just a few lifestyle factors into account significantly lowered any benefit associated with alcohol consumption.
People with underweight who drink excessively may be at an even higher risk of dying from heart disease, cancer and other causes, according to a new study reported in Science Daily.
Excessive alcohol use is the third most common cause of preventable death in the U.S. and is estimated to cause 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults in the U.S., according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
While research has long shown a higher risk of death linked to alcoholism for people with overweight, a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence has found that underweight people who drink excessively may be at an even higher risk of dying from heart disease, cancer and other causes.
The study was based on data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which has a nationally representative sample of more than 200,000 U.S. adults aged 35-85, interviewed between Jan. 1, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2011. The researchers analyzed data on mortality risk among drinkers and non-drinkers using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categories to define “underweight,” “normal weight,” “overweight” and “obesity.”
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.
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.
I started writing blog posts about healthy eating for the holidays on October 28. This will be the second one that dealt with the drinking side of the equation. Of course, the principles involved here apply year ’round, not just to the holidays, but since we are in the holiday season, it seemed an appropriate subject.
The holiday spirit includes the imbibing of alcoholic spirits. As it turns out, women with their smaller frames tend to be more vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol than men. But, smaller frames doesn’t tell the whole story.
According to the site Alcohol problems and solutions “Women are affected by alcohol more rapidly because they tend to have a higher proportion of body fat than men. As fat cannot absorb alcohol, it is concentrated at higher levels in the blood. Women also have less of a gastric or stomach enzyme (dehydrogenase) that metabolizes or breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. Because of this, women absorb up to nearly 30 per cent more alcohol into their bloodstream than men of the same height and weight who drink the same amount of alcohol. Women are also usually shorter and lighter than men, further concentrating alcohol in their blood. Therefore, when women of average size consume one drink, it will have almost the same effect as two drinks do for the average size man. If women eat little or skip food entirely, that compounds the effects of drinking alcohol.”
WebMD has an interesting quiz on alcohol consumption that explains, “Women are more vulnerable to alcohol for a variety of reasons. First, women tend to weigh less than men, so a drink delivers proportionately more alcohol. But even in the case of men and women who weigh the same, alcohol hits women harder because they metabolize it differently. Alcohol is diluted by the body’s water content, and women tend to have a lower water content. This means that alcohol is not as diluted in their bodies, and their organs are exposed to more alcohol.
Women are at higher risk for negative health consequences of drinking, including liver, brain, and heart damage.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days. The Dietary Guidelines also state that it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.”
Limiting your alcohol consumption is good for your health and you will likely enjoy the holidays more if you do.