To drink or not to drink? How alcohol actually affects health
Holidays are rarely complete without fancy cocktails, a bottle of good wine or a glass of sparkling wine. But many are still vague about how alcohol affects health. Let’s find this out.
Our relationship with alcohol depends on many things. First of all, from genetics. Some people like the taste of alcohol, such as the bitter taste in beer, others get sick of it, and some have a headache. Some people can handle large amounts without any consequences – usually those who subsequently develop addiction.
The ability to enjoy drinking is determined by several key enzymes, the levels of which vary greatly from person to person and from country to country. Asians are known for their low alcohol tolerance due to their variation in the alcohol dehydrogenase gene. It speeds up the absorption of alcohol by 50 times compared to Europeans and Africans who do not have this variation. Often this means that after having a drink with friends or colleagues, the Japanese turn red like tomatoes and begin to giggle after the first portion.
Is alcohol harmful or beneficial to you personally? It is impossible to give an exact answer: it all depends on how much you drink, your social status and country of residence.
The French, for example, have long occupied the first lines in the list of the “wine league”. – A source
Culture plays a role. The way you drink is important: the French style (regularly, as a relaxation and at any time) is likely to be protective, unlike the occasional British style (in one gulp, on Friday night at happy hour). Also, the reaction to alcohol depends on the types of microbes in your gut and their diversity.
A lot is harmful
Jenna Maccioki, an immunologist with 20 years of experience, knows that in terms of immunity, regular alcohol consumption is bad for health.
The immune system is indirectly affected by the negative effects of alcohol on sleep, the quantity and quality of which is reduced. Alcohol is also harmful to intestinal health. Dysbacteriosis is more common in those who regularly drink alcohol, and strong alcoholic beverages (such as gin) are especially harmful to gut bacteria.
Large volumes of alcohol lead to serious problems.
Large doses of alcohol are not only bad for you, but also for your intestines. – A source
People who abuse alcohol tend to be at increased risk of infectious diseases, recover longer from illness, and are more likely to have complications from surgery. Eating large doses affects the internal organs that regulate the immune system, such as the liver, which produces antibacterial agents that destroy the bacterial cell wall, as well as natural killer cells that are involved in the regulation of local anti-tumor immunity. This explains, in part, why we tend to get sick during the Christmas season or after a particularly wild weekend party. If you have a chronic medical condition, alcohol has a cumulative effect on your body and aggravates your symptoms.
But don’t be discouraged: not all alcohol is equally harmful. Drinking red wine in moderation is beneficial for your health. It has been shown to increase the number of good bacteria in the gut and reduce the number of bad ones. It’s all about the phytonutrients it contains, in particular polyphenols.
Here’s a simple guideline: let’s say a glass of red wine a day for women (or two glasses for men).
The main thing is to remember about moderation. – A source
In a study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles found that the death rate in people who drink moderately is 42% lower than among those who drink heavily. They also found that limited alcohol consumption protects against cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
And one more good news: the same glass of wine at dinner is good for the brain. In Norway, they conducted a large-scale study that tracked alcohol consumption and health of more than 5,000 people for 7 years. Scientists found that those who drank moderately, cognitive function deteriorated less often.
A few more words
By the end of the New Year’s Eve season, some are getting really sick. Why? First, alcohol weakens the immune system. Secondly, usually these days we do not get enough sleep. It has been reliably proven: even if we slept little or poorly for just one night, the number of killer cells in the body, which constitute the first line of defense against viruses and detect cancer cells, is sharply reduced. This reduction – sometimes up to 70% – means that we find ourselves practically unprotected from danger.
What to do? Do not forget to drink in moderation and sleep for 7-9 hours. And if you didn’t manage to get enough sleep on some day, try to go to bed earlier or to get up later on another night – in order to gain the required number of hours of sleep in a week.
Based on materials from the books “Immunity”, “Myths about diets”, “Better every day”
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