By Heather Willett
It’s a Saturday night; you and your friends are out to dinner. Most likely almost everyone at the table is sipping on a cold beer or a glass of wine. Having a drink or two is a favored pastime of many, but what are the effects on our health? One of the biggest health debates has been beer vs. wine. So which one is really healthier?
Believe it or not, beer actually possesses some health benefits with moderate consumption. Drinking moderate amounts of beer has the potential to reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 25%, protects from heart attacks and lowers blood pressure, according to Harvard researchers. Beer has also been known to lower the risk of kidney stones and the risk for strokes. Dutch researchers conducted a study of 38,000 males over a 4 year period and found that when they drank beer moderately they were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Lastly, beer was found to help with insomnia and improve eye sight, however, it was discovered that drinking too much beer actually has the opposite effect and can make it difficult to sleep and eye sight will also decline.
Wine has a reputation for being a “healthier” choice when it comes to alcohol and with good reason since there are a few health benefits with wine consumption. Wine has a long history of being used as a medicinal treatment dating back as far as BC. These days most of the excitement around wine is due to the fact that wine contains reservatrol, which can be found in the skin of red grapes and is a natural phenol. Many researchers are still trying to fully understand the affects reservatrol because there have been many claims that it can extend lifespan, prevent cancer, and help to cure Alzheimer’s. What we do know to be true is that wine has antimicrobial properties, especially red wine, and can boost the immune system. Wine also provides heart health benefits by lowering the rate of heart attacks, strokes and death caused by heart disease. Wine has also been known to help preserve memory, which could be linked to the reservatrol. A 10-year study by Harvard Medical School, also determined that premenopausal women who drank 1-2 glasses of wine a day were found to be 40 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Wine also contains about 4 percent of your daily intake of potassium and a significant amount of fiber.
The Benefits of Limiting or Avoiding Alcohol
While there may be several health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, there are also negative effects that it can have on our health. These include:
- Weight gain: Alcohol contains empty calories. A regular beer contains between 140 to 200 calories, while light beer contains around 100. A glass of wine is around 125 calories for a 5oz pour. However, the real issue is that alcohol causes the body to burn less stored fat for energy because the body instead burns a substance called acetate, which the liver makes from the alcohol. Additionally, alcohol contributes to weight gain by interfering with blood sugar levels. The liver stores glycogen and when blood sugar drops, the liver converts the glycogen into glucose and releases it into the blood. Alcohol interferes with the brain to liver communication and, therefore, prevents the liver from converting the glycogen to glucose so the brain thinks food is still needed, which leads one to eat whatever they can get their hands on. This leads to weight gain.
- Dehydrates: The body produces an anti-diuretic hormone, which is used to reabsorb water into the body. Alcohol decreases the body’s production of this hormone, leading to a greater loss in fluids through urination without replenishing the water it loses. We also know that excessive amounts of alcohol may also cause vomiting, which only further depletes the body of necessary fluids.
- Digestive issues: Alcohol contributes to a plethora of digestive issues! These include:
- Increased risk of mouth cancer: alcohol consumption is the second leading cause of mouth cancer
- Creates heartburn and acid reflux
- Damages stomach lining
- May limit the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food
- Causes leaky gut syndrome where toxins leak into the body through intestine and lead to serious health issues
- Leads to pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, and can interfere with digestive functions and can be life-threatening
- Corrodes the liver and can cause cirrhosis
- Tooth decay: The acidity and sugar in alcohol can demineralize teeth’s enamel, which can cause teeth to rot faster
- Increases estrogen levels
Since alcohol consumption has been linked to over 60 different diseases, eliminating alcohol or abstaining for a period of time is often recommended to prevent illness, lower risk for cancer and type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and heal the liver.
Often individuals change their diets looking to lose weight, but they overlook how much alcohol they drink or are unwilling to make small changes to their drinking habits. Phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification needs to be completed for weight loss to occur and the liver plays a large role in this process. Since alcohol has a direct affect on the liver, it means it is unable to complete the detox of other unwanted toxins from the body. When alcohol is eliminated from the diet, the liver won’t be spending all of its time trying to filter the alcohol out of the body and will be available to provide more energy and necessary metabolites.
Additionally, abstaining from alcohol has shown to enhance focus, concentration and memory. It has also been proven to improve the amount and quality of sleep. Quitting for even a month will improve liver function, cholesterol and glucose levels.
Drinking alcohol is a large part of many cultures around the world. People frequently gather to socialize around a glass of wine or a pint of beer and many declare that alcohol helps to let loose after a rough day. And as we’ve discovered, alcohol can even offer some unexpected health benefits. There are studies that suggest that drinking alcohol may have some advantages, but after conducting our own research we can conclude that the best options are to either abstain from drinking or drink in moderate amounts—a glass of wine or a pint a day—depending on your weight loss goals.