Alcohol: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This month it would have been easy to talk about one of the worst problems that is associated with alcohol: fatalities that come from drunk driving. For instance, alcohol and a brake failure led to an accident where a truck ran through an intersection and then overturned in a field, harming the driver, but fortunately no one else.

But an article in the Health Day News weighed the pros and cons related to the product we know as alcoholic beverages. The gist of the articles was that a small amount can actually be helpful, but a larger amount is bad is so many ways. First let’s look the good part, but if you’re a drinker, be fair and read the latter part of the article as well.

A moderate amount of alcohol consumption can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, gallstone formation, type 2 diabetes and dementia. It can also give a metabolism a slight boost. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hosital in NYC said that, "Alcohol, especially red wine, has resveratrol and antioxidants and bioflavonoids and polyphenols, and all of these wonderful things that dilate the arteries and reduce inflammation. Alcohol can definitely be part of a heart-healthy diet if you're drinking responsibly."

Moderate usage was described as one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. That means 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or a 1.5 ounce of liquor. It’s important to note the ounces, not the glasses, since sizes of glassware can vary greatly. But it is not suggested that non-drinkers take up the habit to increase their health, since all of those healthy items are found in better form in fruits and vegetables.

On the bad side, alcohol raises the levels of triglyceride and blood pressure and irregular heartbeats. It is also high in calories and can cause weight gain. Excess alcohol consumption will hurt the kidneys and liver, increase the risk for cancer, asthma and allergies, and interfere with insulin and cholesterol medications.

Beyond that is the “ugly,” meaning addiction, binge drinking, drinking while pregnant, alcohol poisoning, brain damage, violent behavior and DUIs. Also the fact that alcohol reduces one ability to think things through wisely will often lead to STD’s, unwanted pregnancies, and fatal car crashes.

Overall, the drawbacks greatly outweigh the benefits.

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