The Potential Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Consumption

In 1992, French scientists published a report that indicated that cardiovascular mortality was much less among predominantly wine-drinking residents of the Mediterranean southern provinces of France than in northern provinces where wine is less frequently preferred, in spite of similar overall dietary components and rates of consumption of alcoholic beverages (Table 1). This report on the 'French paradox' was assumed to confer specific cardiopro-tective benefit to wine, but was soon tempered by in vitro studies, which showed that the protective effect of wine on the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein could be mimicked by constitutive antioxidant fla-vonoids present not only in grapes but in many other fruits and vegetables. Another epidemiological study concluded that the lower mortality risk among wine drinkers compared to non-wine drinkers could be attributed in large part to a better life style, including less smoking, more exercise, and better diet. Subsequent population studies defined J-shaped curves for alcohol-related mortality, where mortality is increased in abstainers and progressively increased in those who consume more than one (women) or two (men) drinks per day. It can now be concluded that the benefits of moderate drinking are confined to reductions in incidences of coronary vessel occlusions and ischemic strokes, but not to hemorrhagic

Table 1 Benefits and risks of alcohol consumption

Minimal amount or duration (drink units per day)

Mechanism

Benefits

Coronary disease protection Cerebrovascular disease

(nonhemorrhagic) protection Risks Cancer Oropharynx and esophagus Breast (women) Colon Alcoholic liver disease Fatty liver Alcoholic hepatitis

Alcoholic cirrhosis

Pancreas Pancreatitis

Pancreatic insufficiency Cardiomyopathy Neurological Acute trauma, e.g., motor vehicle accidents Coma and death Withdrawal syndrome Wernicke-Korsokoff syndrome Anemia

>3 (women) x 10 years >6 (men) x 15 years >3 (women) x 15 years >6 (men) x 20 years

~10 years ~10-15 years Binge drinking

1-2 in social setting

10-20 in rapid succession Follows binge 10-15 years

5-10 years

Flavonoid antioxidants Elevated HDL lipoprotein Reduced platelet adhesiveness

Unknown; higher risk in smoking alcoholics Increases estrogen production Risk increases with low folate

Increased liver fat synthesis Toxicity of alcohol metabolism

Increased collagen synthesis

Acute inflammation of pancreas

Loss of exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cells

Mitochondrial damage of muscle cells or thiamine deficiency

Legal intoxication

Severe toxicity Neuronal hyperexcitability Thiamine deficiency

Combinations of iron, folate and pyridoxal deficiencies strokes. Whereas red and white wine both contain protective antioxidant flavonoids, moderate amounts of alcohol also improve the circulating lipid profile by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein and tissue plasminogen activator while reducing platelet adhesiveness.

Alcohol No More

Alcohol No More

Do you love a drink from time to time? A lot of us do, often when socializing with acquaintances and loved ones. Drinking may be beneficial or harmful, depending upon your age and health status, and, naturally, how much you drink.

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