Drink To Your Health!
Drink to your health!
For years, scientists have known that moderate alcohol consumption lowers a person’s risk of death. Moderate drinkers are generally healthier, and have better cardiovascular function than non-drinkers. It’s long been assumed that alcohol’s ability to promote relaxation had something to do with this benefit.
The potent natural antioxidant, resveratrol, found in red wine, has been viewed as possibly playing a role in the benefits of drinking wine. The “French paradox,” for instance, refers to the observation that French people have significantly less heart disease than Americans, despite eating a diet relatively high in saturated fat. Obviously, drinking wine is a part of everyday life in France, so some scientists speculated that perhaps resveratrol in red wine accounts for this paradox.
But, while resveratrol may have many benefits, it’s also clear that the cardiovascular benefits of drinking alcohol are due to alcohol itself. It doesn’t seem to matter if one drinks a little wine or a little vodka; the benefit is the same.
Moderate drinking is usually defined as two units of alcohol per day for men, or one unit per day for women. A unit is equivalent to one glass of wine, one bottle of beer, or one shot (about one and a half ounces) of hard liquor. Of course, anyone with a history of alcoholism should avoid all alcohol. And women should remember that drinking MORE than one unit of alcohol daily is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Nevertheless, in general, moderate drinking is considered a heart-healthy behavior.
Now new research suggests alcohol also affects immune system function. In a good way. This is a new finding, and something of a surprise. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found that moderate alcohol consumption may actually boost the body’s ability to fight infection. Working with primates, whose immune systems are very similar to humans’, the researchers found that moderate drinkers responded far more robustly to a vaccine against smallpox than subjects that didn’t drink at all, or heavy drinkers.
So moderation is key. But, that said, it’s good to know that a daily glass of wine—or beer, or what have you—may actually help your cardiovascular system AND keep you from succumbing to infection. Cheers!
I. Messaoudi, M. Asquith, F. Engelmann, B. Park, M. Brown, A. Rau, J. Shaw, K.A. Grant. Moderate alcohol consumption enhances vaccine-induced responses in rhesus macaques. Vaccine, 2013; 32 (1): 54 DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.10.076