There is a lot of conflicting information about whether or not alcohol is good for you. The impacts alcohol can have upon your body are complex. While some health benefits have been measured in studies of adults; this has only ever been for moderate consumption.
In all instances, heavy consumption of alcohol increases your risk of accidents, injuries, diseases, and disruptions in family life.
What is moderate consumption?
The most commonly referenced Australian Alcohol Guideline, assumes that you:
If these conditions do not apply to you, you can find more comprehensive guidance here.
Studies (1) have found that when people are respectful of these safety limits, and they fit the assumptions made, they may experience a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
These studies have recently been criticised because people often abstain from alcohol because they have cardiovascular disease (2). The relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and cancer is less clear and this may be complicated by alcohol’s effect on an essential B vitamin: Folate.
Throughout the lifespan folate is essential for accurate cell division. It helps guide the development of an embryo’s spinal cord and it helps to build DNA, the molecule that carries the code of life. Alcohol blocks the absorption of folate and inactivates folate in the blood and tissues. It’s possible that this interaction may be how alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast, colon, and other cancers (3).
Some studies have found that moderate consumption of alcohol reduces the risk of developing type two diabetes, but only for people with an average Body Mass Index.
There has been an investigation into the psychological benefits of moderate alcohol consumption; specifically:
However it is difficult to say categorically that alcohol specifically causes benefits in these areas; there seems to be an effect from the social environments in which alcohol is typically consumed (4). For instance, sharing a wine with friends might provide psychological benefits because of the pleasant interaction with friends; rather than because alcohol is consumed.
Health is a complex thing and achieving it is often a result of doing many things healthfully rather than just one or two. If it is safe for you to drink alcohol, guidelines based on the best evidence available to experts had very specific information about how much you can safety consume.
If alcohol is a problem for you or someone you know please contact your EAP.
1. Koppes LL, Dekker JM, Hendriks HF, Bouter LM, Heine RJ. Moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes: a meta–analysis of prospective observational studies. Diabetes Care. 2005; 28:719–25.
3. Zhang SM, Willett WC, Selhub J, et al. Plasma folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, homocysteine, and risk of breast cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2003; 95:373–80