Alcohol: Friend or Foe? The answer isn’t cut and dry

Alcohol can be both tonic and poison. Literature suggesting that light to moderate drinking presents a plethora of health benefits can be found if people go looking for it.

However, alcohol also has its detractors, who say that the risks outweigh the benefits when it comes to drinking. This makes it even more complicated to decided if consuming alcohol is something that can safely be included in one’s lifestyle or if it’s something to be avoided.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that alcohol can affect every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream.

The Mayo Clinic advises that moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits. These can include reducing risk of developing and dying from heart disease. There’s a possible reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke, which occurs when the arteries to the brain narrow or become blocked, impacting blood flow.

Some think that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce one’s risk of diabetes. The Harvard Medical School indicates that moderate drinking protecting against cardiovascular disease and diabetes makes sense biologically and scientifically.

Moderate amounts of alcohol raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol), and higher HDL levels are associated with greater protection against heart disease. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been linked with beneficial changes ranging from greater sensitivity to insulin to improvements in factors that influence blood clotting.

Alcohol has a dark side, too. Its most pronounced issue is the toll it can take on the liver. Heavy alcohol use can cause inflammation or scarring of the liver. The World Cancer Research Fund also ties alcohol to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver, colon, and rectum.

People who cannot control their drinking can develop addictions that affect both their personal and professional lives. Moderation is essential when consuming alcohol. Those who do not currently drink are not advised to do so just for the potential health benefits. However, people who have one to two drinks (12 ounces of beer, eight ounces of malt liquor, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor) on a regular basis and are healthy overall should generally have few problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Still, it is always best to consult with a physician about alcohol consumption and its potential effects on one’s overall health.

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