Understanding alcohol: Potential health benefits associated with moderate drinking

Posted on October 20th, 2015 in alcohol rehab

Understanding alcohol: Potential health benefits associated with moderate drinking

Excessive alcohol use can have detrimental consequences on health and can lead to chronic health problems. However, people who drink in moderation, defined as one drink per day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men, are more likely to experience health benefits (Dietary Guidelines for Americans).

Studies have found significant associations between moderate alcohol use and a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular problems, diabetes, dementia and other health issues.

Cardiovascular benefits

Studies indicate that moderate alcohol use can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems by as much as 25 to 40 percent, according to the School of Public Health at Harvard University. People who drink moderately have a reduced risk of stroke and greater protection against myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular troubles.

Researchers have suggested that people who drink moderately have a reduced risk for cardiovascular problems due alcohol’s ability to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good cholesterol” levels, which helps to decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” levels and can prevent atherosclerosis or the hardening of arteries (WebMD, “HDL Cholesterol: The good cholesterol”).


Moderate alcohol use is considered to be a protective factor for Type II diabetes in both men and women. A recent study conducted by Yftach Gepner, M.P.H., Rachel Golan, R.D. and colleagues found that moderate wine consumption, especially red wine, along with a Mediterranean diet was safe and modestly decreased cardiometabolic risk in adults with Type II diabetes.

Patients who drank red wine had significantly higher HDL levels, better glycemic control and improved quality of sleep (“Effects of initiating moderate alcohol intake on cardiometabolic risk in adults with type 2 diabetes: A 2-year randomized, controlled trial”).

Cognitive decline and dementia

Research indicates that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of dementia and reduces the rate of cognitive decline (Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation). Dr. Monique Breteler from the Erasmus Medical Centre and her colleagues found a reduced risk of dementia and vascular dementia among adults over the age of 55 who drank one to three alcoholic drinks per day (“Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: The Rotterdam Study”).

Evidence from several human observation studies indicate that low or moderate alcohol use can reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, by as much as 50 percent (Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation).

Other health benefits associated with moderate alcohol use

Moderate alcohol intake can reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women and symptomatic gallstone disease in men, can lengthen life, improve libido and protect against the common cold among non-smokers. Alcohol can also have benefits for mental health due to a reduction of stress, lower chance of developing depression and potential social benefits of drinking in moderation.

Drinking alcohol is best done in moderation and benefits mainly older adults and people who are at risk of heart disease. For people who are of legal age and drink, these studies highlight the importance of doing so at a reasonable rate.

If you are concerned that someone you love has a problem with alcohol abuse or addiction, please call the Arizona Alcohol Addiction Helpline at any time. A treatment specialist can help answer questions or assist you in finding the right treatment option.

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