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Does Alcohol Have Any Health Benefits?

There are mixed messages on the internet regarding the health effects of alcohol.

Some authorities say that moderate amounts of it are beneficial to the health. But, on the other hand, alcohol is also known to be highly toxic — especially when it is taken in large amounts.

Here’s the truth: Alcohol has no health benefits, and I’ll tell you why in this article.



First, what is alcohol?

The primary psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic drinks is known as ethanol.

Ethanol is what many people refer to as alcohol. It is the substance that causes the state of drunkenness.

Alcohol is produced by yeasts digested in sugar in some carb-rich foods, like grains or grapes used to produce beer and wine, respectively.

Alcohol is an extremely psychoactive substance. It has potent effects on the mental state and mood of a person.

These include reducing shyness and self-consciousness, thus pushing people to act up without any restraint. Alcohol also impairs judgment and may cause the drinker to engage in behaviors that they may regret (1, 2).

While some people may take alcohol in small amounts, others tend to drink it in large quantities. This is referred to as binge drinking. Binge drinking means drinking alcohol in large amounts at a time — resulting in a state of drunkenness.


How does alcohol affect your health?

Alcohol affects your liver

The liver is one of the most remarkable organs in the human body. It has many essential functions.

One of the primary roles of the liver is to neutralize toxic substances consumed by you. Unfortunately, this implies that your liver is highly vulnerable to damage (3).

Alcohol consumption causes a variety of liver diseases. These diseases are collectively referred to as “alcoholic liver diseases.”

Fatty liver is the first of these diseases. One of the major characteristics of fatty liver is a high amount of fat inside the cells of the liver.

It is important to note that over 90% of people who drink at least 15ml (1/2 ounce) of alcohol per day develop fatty liver. It is also important to note that fatty liver is symptomless and can easily be reversed (4, 5).

For those who binge drink, alcohol may cause the liver to be inflamed. In extreme cases, the cells of the liver die off and are replaced with scar tissue, resulting in cirrhosis (3, 6, 7).

Note that cirrhosis is not reversible and may cause a couple of serious health issues. Advanced cases of cirrhosis may require a liver transplant.


Alcohol affects the brain

Binge drinking has adverse effects on the brain.

The ethanol in alcoholic beverages inhibits communication between the brain cells — this is a short-term effect that triggers the symptoms of drunkenness.

In some cases, binge drinking may cause a blackout. During a blackout, the affected person experiences amnesia or memory loss during a binge (8).

Of course, these are very temporary effects. However, chronic alcoholism causes permanent changes to the brain, resulting in impaired brain function (9, 10, 11).

Note that the human brain is a very delicate organ and extremely sensitive to damage. As such, chronic alcoholism may put you at risk of dementia, resulting in shrinkage of the brain in middle-aged adults and older adults (12, 13, 14, 15).


Depression

There is a close but complex association between alcohol intake and depression (16).

Alcohol intake and depression tend to increase the risk of one another simultaneously. However, alcohol abuse may be the stronger factor (17, 18, 19).

Most depressed and anxious people drink to reduce stress and improve their mood. Well, it may provide relief for a few hours, but it will cause more harm to your overall mental health (20, 21).


Heart health

Heart disease is a major cause of death in the modern world. Heart disease is an umbrella term for a broad category of diseases, the commonest being strokes and heart attacks.

There’s a complex relationship between alcohol and heart disease. However, it is important to mention that this relationship depends on several factors.

Moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. However, binge drinking increases your risk of heart disease (22, 23, 24, 25).


Increases the risk of congenital disabilities

Taking alcohol in excess during pregnancy is a major preventable cause of congenital disabilities in the United States (26).

Binge drinking in the early stage of pregnancy is a risk for the fetus.

Studies have shown that binging during pregnancy may affect the child's development, behavior, growth, and intelligence for the rest of their life (26).


Increases the risk of cancer

Cancer is a severe health condition characterized by the sporadic growth of cells.

Alcoholism is a major risk factor for cancers of the throat, mouth, liver, breast, and colon (27, 28, 29).

You see, cells that line your throat and mouth are very vulnerable to alcohol’s toxic effects.

Do you know that even one drink a day can increase your risk of throat and mouth cancer by up to 20%? (29, 30).

The risk increases as you drink more of it. Having more than four drinks per day increases your risk of throat and mouth cancer by fivefold, as well as your risk of liver, colon, and breast cancer (28, 29, 31, 32).



So, what should you do?

There are many healthy alternatives to alcohol.

· Drink kombucha tea. It is a very healthy alternative

· Take milk thistle before you drink alcohol. It is known to counter alcohol’s effects.

· Take L-glutamine and kudzu root extract. They reduce cravings for alcohol.



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