Alcohol is a very controversial topic in nutrition.Â Yes, it does provide benefitsâ€¦when itâ€™s consumed in moderation.Â Thatâ€™s where the line is drawn, because it can also have some devastating effects on health.
One serving of alcohol a day for women and two for men (or less, of course) is todayâ€™s recommendation.Â However, serving sizes are often overlooked.Â In restaurants, beverages are often served with over twice a serving in a glassâ€”putting people well over their limits.Â But when you arenâ€™t educated on approved serving sizes, how are you supposed to know that?Â Here are actual serving sizes for the various forms of alcohol:
- Wine: 4 ounces
- Beer: 12 ounces
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits
- 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits
So, what kinds of benefits can alcohol provide you with?Â First of all, it is thought that the antioxidants and flavonoids in red wine help to reduce oneâ€™s risk for heart disease.Â However, the reasons as to why red wine provides benefit to the heart have not been proven yet.
There has also been research showing that alcohol in moderation can help to improve HDL, or â€œgoodâ€ cholesterol levels in the blood.Â But there is no proof that it works better than other measure to improve cholesterol.Â People are still recommended to turn to diet changes, exercise and losing weight (if overweight) rather than alcohol to improve their heart health.
Another possible benefit of alcohol is that it can reduce stress when consumed in small amounts.Â On the other hand, there are studies that show it has the complete opposite effect on stress!Â Currently, there is not an answer as to what its effects are on stress. Â If you are feeling stressed, try exercising, talking to a friend or reading a book instead of drinking.
It can be concluded that there is no absolute evidence that alcohol improves your health.Â Avoid listening to health claims about alcohol from the media.Â In fact, if you already avoid alcohol, it is recommended to not start drinking despite alcoholâ€™s possible health benefits.Â And remember, you will only receive the benefits if you consume it in moderation.
Now, on to the other side of the argument.Â Alcohol can potentially be a dangerous substance, as we all probably know already.Â If itâ€™s consumed in large amounts regularly, it increases oneâ€™s risk for various cancers of the liver, colon, breast, throat and mouth.Â It can have negative effects on the digestive tract and can lead to nutrient deficiencies.Â Hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver can be affects of alcohol abuse and it can lead to the development of diabetes.Â It also has negative effects on the brain that can lead to cognitive impairment.Â It is known that alcohol, even when consumed in small amounts, can lead to unfortunate accidents.Â The advantages of alcohol consumption do not outweigh the disadvantages.
To sum it up, drink in moderation.Â Understand what a serving size is.Â Try your hardest to be responsible.Â Do all of this and you will not put your health at risk.Â Your liver, brainâ€¦every part of your body will thank you later!
Brianna Elliott is a third year dietetics student and thinks itâ€™s important for people to understand alcohol nutrition claims.Â The media often provides them with misinformation, therefore they end up putting their health at risk.Â Brianna also writes for ProbioticSmart.com – a website dedicated to bringing accurate health and nutritional information through its blog as well as the best and lowest priced health and nutritional supplements and aids such as Wobenzym N to the world.