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How alcohol affects your heart, liver, weight and cancer risk


For most people, the past month or so was filled with holiday cocktails, bubbly Champagne, and red wine galore. Now, as many of us are beginning to feel the power of our will dry januaryThe question begs: can alcohol ever be good for you?


There is no doubt that drinking alcohol carries risks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention It has been noted in the US that alcohol consumption is linked to a number of health concerns including high blood pressure, cancer, car accidents, violence and more.

but according to latest guidelines from the US Department of HealthUp to two drinks per day for men and up to one drink per day for women is considered safe. there is also some evidence red wine may be good for your heartand studies have also found Moderate alcohol consumption linked to longevity,

Still, it’s worth asking: When those guidelines suggest those numbers are “safe,” what exactly are they considering?

The question of whether or not alcohol can ever be good for you is a complicated one, according to experts, so gear up — and be prepared to give up “half a bottle of wine” for good nights out. Below, we examine how alcohol can affect your heart, your weight, your liver, and your cancer risk.


how alcohol affects your heart

First things first: Is alcohol good for your heart? this is a question cardiologist Dr Dawn Pham is asked all the time.

“The short answer to this question is we’re not really sure,” he told HuffPost in an email. “This belief stems from the ‘French Paradox’, where observations from the 1990s showed that populations there had a lower risk of dying from heart disease despite similar intakes of saturated fat intake, blood pressure and tobacco use. “


One key difference, Pham explained, is that the French consumed more red wine, and this suggested a possible link between alcohol and heart health. But “in reality, it is unclear whether there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the two,” or if “other factors are involved such as less stress from a healthier lifestyle or more social interactions.”

Then let’s talk about red wine specifically improving heart health. Can resveratrol, the antioxidant found in it, really make your heart healthier?

“Some studies suggest a reduction in the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes by raising your ‘good’ cholesterol levels,” Pham said. “Resveratrol is an antioxidant in red wine found in the skin of grapes that may reduce inflammation and blood clotting” — although the data are “mixed,” he said, adding that “more research is needed.”


What we do know for sure is that you want to avoid heavy alcohol consumption.

“The American Heart Association recommends that if you drink, moderation is key,” Pham said. “This equates to one drink per day for women and one to two for men. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in two hours for women and five or more drinks for men.

how does alcohol affect your weight

According to registered dietitian, it’s especially important to watch your alcohol consumption if you want to lose weight. Maggie Michalski,

“Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. That, along with the fact that many alcoholic beverages contain added sweeteners and sugar, inflates the calorie count in many commonly consumed alcoholic beverages,” she said.

Marianna Massey via Getty Images

A sugary cocktail (or three) can add up to more calories than you think.

On top of that, alcohol is primarily metabolized in the liver, where fat is also metabolized.

“Alcohol slows down the metabolism of fat and fat storage, which can lead to weight gain,” explained Michalsky. “Drinking alcohol also causes hangovers for most of us, which affects many aspects of a healthy lifestyle, such as quality of sleep, and willingness to exercise and make healthier food choices the next day. This can create a negative cycle.” Which does not support a healthy lifestyle.

While Michalski is aware of the potential health benefits associated with red wine, he believes that the true benefits of wine have more to do with the enjoyment that can come from it.

“Wine can be enjoyable and celebratory, like food – mixology can be a form of art,” she said. “I believe that balanced and deliberate use is the best approach when drinking.”

how alcohol affects your liver

As mentioned above, alcohol is metabolized in the liver, and unfortunately there can be harmful effects associated with it.

“Drinking more than the recommended daily amounts for men and women or drinking excessively can damage your liver, leading to diseases such as fatty liver and cirrhosis,” says registered dietitian Dr. jane sheinman Told.

“Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your risk of liver cancer,” she said. “Actually, a study showed that just three drinks a day was enough to increase your risk of liver cancer. Since your liver helps process and remove alcohol from your body, it’s best to avoid it altogether if you already have liver disease.

How alcohol affects your cancer risk

In addition to increasing your chances of liver cancer, consuming alcohol also increases your risk of developing other types of cancer.

“There are a few ways that alcohol can affect your cancer risk,” Scheinman said. “First, the breakdown of alcohol in your body produces acetaldehyde, which is a toxic chemical that can damage your DNA and cause cancer. Alcohol can also cause oxidative stress inside the body, which further damages cells.

In addition, she said, alcohol can affect the absorption of important nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamins C and E. “Alcohol can also increase levels of hormones such as estrogen, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.”

So, do you need to give up alcohol completely? If you’re generally healthy, you certainly don’t need to do this – although you’d be hard pressed to find a health expert who would suggest you stop drinking. improve your health.

If you are going to drink, research shows Taking a break from alcohol can be beneficial to your overall health. And it’s always important to consume alcohol in moderation, no matter what type of alcohol you’re drinking.

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