We’ve all heard about the alleged benefits of moderate alcohol use, especially that it may reduce the risk of heart disease. And for whatever reason — not the least of which was to justify our drinking habits — we fell for it, missing two important words in the benefits of alcohol argument: moderate and may.
But after years of using the health benefits of alcohol as an excuse to drink, the dangers are outweighing the alleged benefits. So much so that the amount of alcohol considered “healthy” is now zero in some countries.
The latest alcohol consumption recommendations vary by country and organization, but generally, they advise adults of legal drinking age to drink in moderation or not at all.
Studies and reports have even suggested that no amount of alcohol is good for your health.
For example, a global study published in The Lancet in 2018 found that alcohol was the leading risk factor for death and disability among people aged 15 to 49 years, and the increased risk of cancer and other diseases outweighed any potential protective effects of moderate drinking. The study concluded that “the safest level of drinking is none.”
Similarly, a report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction in 2021 revised its previous guidance on alcohol consumption. It recommended that adults of legal drinking age who choose to drink should limit their intake to no more than one drink per day, regardless of gender.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
A standard drink in the U.S. contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, equivalent to about 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. For the basis of comparison, 5 ounces is about the size of a small baby bottle.
When was the last time you poured yourself a baby bottle size glass of wine?
How Alcohol Harms Your Body and Mind: Debunking the Common Myths About Drinking
If you’re still drinking alcohol because you believe it will keep the cardiologist away, you might want to weigh this supposed benefit against the downsides of this “heart medicine.”
- Increased risk of some cancers, such as esophageal cancer
- Impaired judgment and coordination, leading to accidents and injuries
- Liver damage and cirrhosis
- High blood pressure and heart failure
- Weight gain and obesity
- Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
- Addiction and dependence
The bottom line seems to be, don’t drink the Kool-Aid; the real risks of alcohol outweigh any potential benefits.
But if damaging your body and mind is not enough motivation for you to reconsider your relationship with alcohol, consider this …
Alcohol Is Not Your Friend: It Can Damage Your Relationships and Your Happiness
Four years ago, I quit drinking, not only because I started noticing that my once high tolerance for alcohol was diminishing, but because I hated the angry person I became a couple of drinks into happy hour.
Let’s just say happy hour was anything but happy.
My relationship with my partner suffered the most as I defended my drinking as socializing while resenting that I was being “nagged and controlled.”
But the middle of the night trips to the kitchen to down a glass of water to quench my raging thirst, and the mornings of waking up with a head feeling like it was two sizes too big for my body, were the wakeup call I needed to finally admit that my drinking was no longer socializing … it was drowning out feelings I didn’t want to feel, and problems that alcohol was making worse, not better.
The problems were still there the night after drinking. And they were harder to deal with once the happy buzz had turned into regret and revulsion.
Are You Using the Health Benefits of Alcohol To Justify Your Less-Than-Social Drinking?
Here are some staggering statistics that may change your mind about your relationship with alcohol:
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3 million deaths worldwide were attributable to alcohol consumption in 2016, representing 5.3% of all deaths that year.
- In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 95,000 alcohol-related deaths in 2018, including deaths from alcohol poisoning and chronic conditions related to alcohol use, such as liver disease.
- In the United Kingdom, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports there were 7,551 alcohol-specific deaths in 2019, a rate of 11.9 deaths per 100,000 population.
- In Australia, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reports 4,124 alcohol-related deaths in 2018, representing 5.1% of all deaths in that year.
It’s worth noting that these figures only represent deaths directly related to alcohol use and do not include deaths resulting from accidents or injuries caused by alcohol impairment.
If that doesn’t sober you up, think about this: Drinking alcohol kills 17.6 times as many people as cocaine, according to Annie Grace, author of The Alcohol Experiment. And the latest statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are even more sobering.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH): “It is estimated that more than 140,000 people (approximately 97,000 men and 43,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the United States behind tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity, and illegal drugs.”
The health benefits of alcohol argument is funded by the deep pockets of an alcohol industry more interested in profits than in your well-being.
Arguing back is the best way to prevent becoming a statistic.