For most people, the past month or so has been packed with festive cocktails, bubbly champagne and copious amounts of red wine. Now, many of us feel that our willpower is diminishing. Dry JanuaryThe question arises: Can alcohol be good for you?

There is no doubt that drinking alcohol comes with risks. Notes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Alcohol consumption is linked to many health problems, including high blood pressure, cancer, car accidents, violence, and more.

But as he says The most recent guidelines From the US Department of Health, it is safe to drink up to two drinks a day for men, and up to one drink a day for women. There is also some evidence. Red wine can be good for your heartAnd even studies have found this Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with longer life.

Still, it’s worth asking: What exactly are those guidelines thinking when they suggest those numbers are “safe”?

According to experts, the question of whether alcohol can be good for you is a complex one, so give it a shot — and get ready to ditch those “half a bottle of wine” nights for good. Below, we examine how alcohol affects your heart, weight, liver and cancer risk.

How alcohol affects your heart

First things first: Is alcohol good for the heart? That is the question. Cardiologist Don Pham It is always asked.

“The short answer to that question is that we’re not sure,” he told HuffPost in an email. “This belief stems from observations in the 1990s of the so-called ‘French Paradox,’ where people living there had a lower risk of dying from heart disease despite having similar levels of fat, blood pressure and tobacco use.

One key difference, Pham explained, is that the French consume more red wine, suggesting a possible link between alcohol and heart health. But “it’s unclear whether there’s actually a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two” or “if there are other factors such as a healthy lifestyle or less stress from more social interactions.”

Then there are the things that are said about red wine specifically improving heart health. Does the antioxidant resveratrol really keep your heart healthy?

“Some studies suggest that it can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes by raising your ‘good’ cholesterol levels,” Pham said. “Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red grapes that may reduce inflammation and blood clotting in the skin of the grape” – although the data is “mixed” and “more research is needed,” he said.

What we do know for sure is that you want to avoid heavy alcohol consumption.

“The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink, moderation is key,” Pham said. “This equates to one drink a day for women and one to two for men. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in two hours for women and five or more drinks in two hours.”

How alcohol affects your weight

If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s especially important to be careful with alcohol, says the registered dietitian. Maggie Michilczyk.

“Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. “That, along with the fact that many alcoholic beverages contain added sweeteners and sugar, increases the calorie content of many commonly consumed alcoholic beverages,” she says.

A sugary cocktail (or three) may add more calories than you think.

Mariana Massey via Getty Images

A sugary cocktail (or three) may add more calories than you think.

In addition, alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver, where it is combined with fat.

“Alcohol slows down fat and fat metabolism, which in turn can lead to weight gain,” Michalczyk explained. “Drinking leads to a hangover for many of us, which affects healthy lifestyle habits like sleep quality and our desire to exercise and make healthy food choices the next day. This creates a negative cycle that doesn’t support a healthy lifestyle.”

While Michael knows there are health benefits associated with red wine, she believes the true benefits of alcohol have more to do with the pleasure it can bring.

“Alcohol can be fun and exciting, just like food – hybrid study can be an art form,” she said. “I believe it’s the best way to drink in moderation and with intention.”

How alcohol affects your liver

As mentioned above, alcohol is metabolized in the liver, and unfortunately, there may be harmful effects associated with this.

“Drinking more than the daily recommended amount for men and women, or drinking too much, can cause harm. [to] Your liver can lead to diseases like fatty liver and cirrhosis,” says a registered dietitian Jane Shinman he said.

“Drinking too much alcohol can increase the risk of liver cancer,” she said. “Of course one Research It showed that just three drinks a day was enough to increase the risk of liver cancer. Because your liver helps process and remove alcohol from your body, it’s best to avoid it completely if you have liver disease.

How alcohol affects your cancer risk

In addition to increasing the risk of liver cancer, alcohol consumption also increases the risk of other types of cancer.

“There are a few ways that alcohol can affect your cancer,” Scheinman said. “First, the breakdown of alcohol in your body releases a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and cause cancer. Alcohol can cause oxidative stress in the body, causing further damage to cells.

She also said that alcohol can affect the absorption of important nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamins C and E. “Low levels of many vitamins and antioxidants are associated with a higher risk of cancer,” Scheinman pointed out. “Alcohol can increase the levels of hormones such as estrogen, which increases the risk of breast cancer.”

So do you need to give up alcohol completely? If you’re generally healthy, you probably shouldn’t – even if you’re too anxious to find a health professional to recommend you drink alcohol. to improve Your health.

If you are going to drink, Research shows Taking a break from alcohol can be beneficial to your overall health. And no matter what kind you drink, it’s always important to drink alcohol in moderation.

Need help with substance use disorders or mental health issues? In the US, call 800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA National Helpline.

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