Go on, have that cocktail.
Alcohol is usually paired with liver problems and addiction. It has been portrayed in the negative light because of the minority population who chooses to abuse it. But little did you know, drinking alcohol is actually a good thing. It has many health benefits. So what is alcohol actually? Basically, it undergoes a fermentation process forming organic compound in which it contains a hydroxyl functional group (-OH). This is bound to a saturated carbon atom. This is predominant in alcoholic beverages. People produce ethanol commercially using a process called fermentation. Many types of alcohols can be made this way, giving rise to a vast variety of beverages.
Alcoholic beverages are enjoyed globally. Taste is pretty much dependent on an individuals preference that vary from country to country. Every country has its own favourite alcohol beverage. If you were to head to Germany during the month of October, you will be able to witness the Oktoberfest. It is the world’s largest beer drinking festival and travelling funfair. This festival draws crowd from many countries around the world and is held annually in Munich, Bavaria. Some might be surprised to note that Singapore does host one as well, mainly adapted from the Germans. It is held bi-annually which draws huge crowds from people all over the world as well. This festival boasts beers, wine, spirits from all over the world making huge amounts of money. As such, despite the great controversy in terms of both physical and mental health, drinking alcohol is a worldwide phenomenon.
Now, the on brighter side of things, drinking alcohol in moderation is beneficial to the heart, several studies have revealed. The key here is moderation! Those who drink wine, spirits or beer regularly are less prone to heart failure and heart attacks than people who rarely or never drink. Three to five drinks (gender dependent) a week are part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, scientists concluded. To put this in numbers, we are looking at a 33 percent less prone to heart failure than those who abstained, or drank infrequently. In the case of heart attacks, the risk was reduced by 28 per cent with each additional one-drink increment.
Let’s look at wine for example. Wine is made from grapes, either red or white ones. The dark pigmentations found in these grapes contains flavonoids, a bio-active compound which has the capability of lowering your Low Density Lipoprotein (bad blood cholesterol) levels. These grapes undergoes a fermentation process- to extract the sugars and alcohol in grapes and this happens as soon as the skin is broken. Drinking a little alcohol every day can be part of a healthy lifestyle, Imre Janszky, a professor of social medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology said. Moderate consumption of alcohol does more good than harm. It’s primarily the alcohol that leads to more good cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein), among other things. Research shows people who regularly drink alcohol have better cardiovascular health than those who consume little or no alcohol.
Researchers said the findings were no surprise. There is a general consensus among the scientific community that three to five drinks a week can be good for the heart.
Let me tell you why….
Beer is made from 4 main ingredients- Barley, water, hops and yeast. These ingredients used contain a variety of water-soluble vitamins. This includes your B-complex vitamins like niacin, folic acid riboflavin etc. It also contains several trace minerals like calcium and magnesium in small quantities. However, the quantity of these vitamins differs greatly from beer to beer and the process in which it is made. For example we have ales and lagers (top and bottom fermentation). Craft beers tend to have more nutrients and it undergoes processing in smaller quantities and a longer periods of time minimizing and elimination of nutrients during the process.
Recently, there have been many articles which have been published on the effects of alcohol on the body. Some include meta-analysis several studies which shows that drinking alcohol, in moderation is beneficial to your heart and cardiovascular system. Let me take you through some of the more promising studies:
• A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has suggested that consumption of alcohol (in any particular form) moderately, raises good cholesterol, and appears to have a favourable effect on the lining of blood vessels, making them less likely to form a clot or for a clot to rupture and plug an artery- all the more reasons to start having that gin & tonic!
Beer has cancer-fighting compounds
Beer contains xanthohumol, a free-radical buster and an antioxidant commonly found in hops (which is added in during the fermentation process). Due to its ability to eliminate free moving electrons which are unbound and can post a danger (causes rise in cancer activity by disrupting the process of cell apoptosis), it can protect against prostate cancer by blocking the effect of testosterone in men.
Although beer drinking requires an acquired taste,women also been found to enjoy this beverage recently. Now the good news is, they also share the benefits of drinking beer as it reduces the chances of benign tumour development in the breast which leads to the development of breast cancer. This link has not been thoroughly researched and may be based on anecdotal evidence. In addition to the antioxidant and anticancer benefits, xanthohumol may slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases, according to one Chinese study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Beer can lower your risk of diabetes
The alcohol in beer increases insulin sensitivity. When Canadian researchers analysed 20 different studies on health and drinking habits, they found that moderate alcohol consumption is protective for type 2 diabetes in men and women. However, diabetic patients need to be cautious primarily because beer is made from wheat and it a significant source of carbohydrates and this might have a direct implication to the drugs that you might take (e.g metformin) or any alcohol-drug interactions.Compounds in hops may protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Remember xanthohumol? Well, in addition to the antioxidant and anticancer benefits, xanthohumol may slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases, according to one Chinese study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. And they’re not alone – researchers at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine performed a meta-analysis of 143 different studies and came to the conclusion that moderate beer drinkers were 23% less likely to develop different forms of dementia and cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s.
Everyone is different, and while most people can handle one serving of alcohol, some people shouldn’t drink at all to avoid spikes or dips in blood sugar. Consultation with your doctor or dietitian would be of paramount importance.
Furthermore, beer is an excellent source of bio available silicon, and element which has been shown to increase bone mineral density (BMD) and improve bone strength. In your bones, we have the activity of osteoblasts and osteoclasts activity, and the contents of beer have an indirect impact on them. Researchers at Tufts University give evidence that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (wine as well as beer) is related to greater bone density in men and women over 60. On top of that, the silicon in beer is easier for our bodies to absorb. In the bone, there are 2 specialized cells called the osteoclasts and osteoblast which help to remodel bone development. Because of the bio availability of silicon and its efficiency in being absorbed, it plays a fundamental role in bone development.
If you have a drink too many, (binge) drinking or drinking heavily over longer periods of time can have very serious consequences. Alcohol misuse not only harms the individual, but damages relationships and society in general in terms of violence and crime, accidents and drink driving. As well as the recognized immediate effects of drinking too much, such as nausea and vomiting, binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking over longer periods of time can affect you in many different ways.
Excessive alcohol consumption can be scary. Binge drinking can cause blackouts, memory loss and anxiety. This in the long run can result in permanent brain damage, serious mental health problems and alcohol dependence or alcoholism. For more information on the effects of alcohol on mental health click here. Youths under the age of 18 have an increased risk of brain damage. This is because their brains are particularly vulnerable as it is still developing during their teenage years. Alcohol can damage parts of the brain, affecting behaviour and the ability to learn and remember.
Your liver acts as a barrier to filter out toxins in the body. The alcohol you consume, in excess has a direct impact on the liver. Liver cirrhosis is associated with chronic alcohol abuse. What happens to the liver is that fat deposits develop, causing disturbances in the hepatic blood vessels. With continued excessive drinking, the liver may become inflamed, causing alcoholic hepatitis, which can result in liver failure and death. Excessive alcohol can permanently scar and damage the liver (do note that the liver is a special ability to regenerate tissues), resulting in liver cirrhosis and an increased risk of liver cancer. Women are particularly susceptible to the effects of alcohol on the liver.
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