News Roundup: The Effect of Alcohol on the Heart and Brain

The effects of alcohol consumption on the body have always been a source of debate. Public opinion on whether drinking is good or bad for you has shifted back and forth across the decades. Many studies have shown that the antioxidants and polyphenols in grapes used for red wine can have health benefits for the heart. However, more recent studies indicate that even moderate drinking can cause negative effects in the brain. This week’s news roundup shows evidence from both sides as the debate goes on.

Alcohol is Good for Your Heart – Most of the Time: “People who did not drink had an increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12% to 56%, compared to people who drank in moderation. These eight conditions include the most common heart events, such as heart attack, stroke and sudden heart-related death.”

The silent damage from drinking moderately down the decades: “Historically, it's been thought that light drinking is protective of the brain while heavy drinking induces damage. The few studies that have examined the effects of moderate drinking have produced inconsistent results.”

Is Wine Healthy? “Benefits of moderate alcohol consumption such as wine include a 30% reduction in the risk of heart attack compared to non-drinkers…[a]dditionally alcohol consumption has been associated with a 30% to 40% reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, compared to those who don't drink.”

Even Moderate Drinking Causes Atrophy in Brain Area Related to Memory, Learning: “But even moderate drinkers were three times as likely to have brain atrophy as non-drinkers. The researchers found no brain-related benefits for alcohol consumption at any level, including very light drinking, compared with abstinence.”

Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits: “Alcohol’s two-faced nature shouldn’t come as a surprise. The active ingredient in alcoholic beverages, a simple molecule called ethanol, affects the body in many different ways. It directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.”

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