Alcohol and Your Health

From the September 2002 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

A few years ago the University of California’s Berkeley Wellness Letter reported on new research about the so-called heart-healthy “benefits” of alcohol consumption. Previous studies had led to a recommendation that moderate consumption of red wine—but not other alcoholic beverages—helped reduce the risk of heart attack. What did the new research reveal?

If we were to rely on the Berkeley Wellness Letter for this information, the latest news would be that moderate consumption of any alcoholic beverage—red or white wine, even beer and spirits—can be heart-healthy. Unfortunately, their latest news is still woefully out-of-date. More recent studies show that even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to significantly increased incidence of atrial fibrillation,1 a condition that can lead to stroke, and to higher rates of breast cancer.2,3

Alcohol is not actually heart-healthy. It simply has anti-clotting effects, much like aspirin.

Researchers have found that even moderate consumption of alcohol—including wine—interferes with blood clotting and, thereby, reduces heart attacks in high-risk populations—people who eat the typical, disease-promoting American diet.

Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks for men. Consuming more than this is associated with increased fat around the waist4 and other potential problems. For example, alcohol consumption leads to mild withdrawal sensations the next day that are commonly mistaken for hunger, which leads people to eat more than is genuinely necessary, resulting in weight gain.

It is worth nothing that alcohol’s anti-clotting properties have only been shown to grant some protective effect against heart attacks for people eating unhealthfully. There are no studies showing that this protective effect is valuable in low-risk individuals consuming healthful, plant-based diets with resultant low cholesterol levels. In my view, it is much wiser to avoid the detrimental effects of alcohol completely and protect yourself from heart disease with nutritional excellence. 1. Jancin B. Just a few drinks raise risk of atrial fibrillation. Family Phsyician News. January 11, 2002;4.

2. Wright RM, McManaman JL, Rapine JE. Alcohol-induced breast cancer: a proposed mechanism. Free Radic Biol Med 1999; 26(3-4): 348-354.

3. Dorgan JF, Baer DJ, Albert PS, et al. Serum hormones and the alcohol-breast cancer association in postmenopausal women. J Natl Cancer Inst 2001; 93(9): 710-716.

4. Dallongeville J, Marecaux N, Ducmetiere P, et al. Influence of alcohol consumption and various beverages on waist girth and waist-to-hip ratio in a sample of French men and women. In J Obes Metab Disord 1998; 22 (12): 1178-1183.
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