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

For most people, the past month or so has been filled with holiday cocktails, bubbly champagne, and an abundance of red wine. Now, as many of us are beginning to feel that our willpower is waning in regards to January is drythe question arises: can alcohol be good for you?

There is no doubt that drinking alcohol carries risks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes Alcohol consumption is linked to a number of health problems, 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 is considered safe for men and women to have up to one drink per day. There is also some evidence for this Red wine can be good for your heartStudies have found that Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with longevity.

However, it’s worth asking: When these guidelines say these numbers are “safe,” what exactly are they thinking?

According to experts, the question of whether alcohol is good for you is a complicated one, so buckle up—and be ready to give up your “half-bottle-wine” nights for good. Below, we examine how alcohol can affect your heart, weight, liver, and cancer risk.

How does alcohol affect your heart

First things first: Is alcohol good for your heart? This is a question Cardiologist Dr. Don Pham he asks all the time.

“The short answer to that question is we’re really not sure,” he told HuffPost in an email. This belief arose from the “French Paradox,” whereby observations from the 1990s showed that residents there had a lower risk of dying from heart disease despite their saturated fat consumption, blood pressure, and tobacco use being similar.

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

Then there’s all the talk about red wine in particular improving heart health. Can resveratrol, the antioxidant in it, make your heart healthier?

“Some studies show a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes by raising levels of ‘good’ cholesterol,” said Pham. “Resveratrol is an antioxidant in red wine found in grape skins that may reduce inflammation and blood clotting”—although The data is “mixed,” he said, “with more research needed.”

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

“The American Heart Association recommends that if you do drink, moderation is key,” said Pham. “This equates to one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day 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

If you’re looking to lose weight, it’s especially important to pay attention to your alcohol consumption, according to a registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk.

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. This, along with the fact that many alcoholic beverages contain added sweeteners and sugar, increases the amount of calories in many commonly consumed alcoholic beverages.

A sugary cocktail can add more calories (or three) than you realize.

Mariana Massey via Getty Images

A sugary cocktail can add more calories (or three) than you realize.

Moreover, alcohol is metabolized mainly in the liver, where fat is also metabolized.

“Alcohol slows down the metabolism to store fat and fat, which in turn can lead to weight gain,” Michalczek explained. “Alcohol also causes a hangover for most of us, affecting many aspects of a healthy lifestyle such as sleep quality, desire to exercise and healthy food choices for the next day. This can create a negative cycle that is not supportive of a healthy lifestyle.”

While Michalczyk is aware of the potential health benefits related to red wine, she believes the true benefits of alcohol have more to do with the enjoyment that can come from it.

“Alcohol can be fun and festive, just like food — blending can be an art form,” she said. “I think balanced and intentional use is the best approach when drinking.”

How does alcohol affect the liver

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

Drinking more than the recommended daily amounts for men and women or drinking too much can cause harm [to] liver, which leads to diseases like fatty liver and cirrhosis,” registered dietitian Jane Scheinman He said.

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

How does alcohol affect the risk of cancer

Besides increasing the chances of developing liver cancer, alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing other types of cancer as well.

“There are several ways alcohol can affect your risk of cancer,” Scheinman said. “First, the breakdown of alcohol in your body creates acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical that can damage your DNA and may cause cancer. Alcohol can also cause oxidative stress within the body, causing further damage to cells.”

Furthermore, she said, alcohol can affect the absorption of important nutrients like b vitamins, vitamin c, and vitamin e. “Low levels of several vitamins and antioxidants are associated with an increased risk of cancer,” Scheinman noted. “Alcohol can also raise levels of hormones such as estrogen, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.”

So, do you need to quit alcohol completely? If you’re generally healthy, there’s definitely no need for that—although you’d be hard-pressed to find a health expert who will suggest you drink alcohol for Improves your health.

if you’re going to drink, Research has shown Taking breaks from alcohol can be good for your overall health. And it’s always important to drink alcohol in moderation, no matter what kind you drink.

Do you need help with a substance use disorder or mental health problems? In the United States, call 800-662-HELP (4357) to get help SAMHSA National Helpline.

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