Is Alcohol Good for Your Health?

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two people clinking wine glasses at the table

Perhaps you’ve heard that a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away, but is that true? Is drinking in moderation actually good for your health? According to a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, alcohol doesn’t help improve overall health, as many have claimed; it actually negatively impacts mental health.

The study, which analyzed the drinking habits and mental health of over 41,000 people, revealed that those who abstained from alcohol experienced higher levels of mental well-being. When you take into consideration that alcohol is a depressant, the results are not surprising. Despite the popular belief that consuming alcohol is a great way to de-stress, in reality, alcohol exacerbates feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. And even in moderation, alcohol impairs sleep, which impacts cognitive and emotional function.

This study is not the first time that alcohol’s effect on the brain has been called out. Just last year, a study claimed that even a small amount of alcohol can impair memory. In 2017, a study conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford and University College London reported that alcohol, even in “sensible” amounts, can cause brain damage. A 2008 study showed that the brains of those who drank alcohol aged faster. And while the studies haven’t proven that moderate drinking can lead to dementia or any other severe brain injury, researchers believe that having a drink a day is not as safe as many have been led to believe.

Regarding moderate drinking, Tim Stockwell, director of the Center for Addictions Research of BC says, “Drink for pleasure, but don’t kid yourself that it’s making you healthier.” Dr. James C. Garbutt, a psychiatry professor at the University of North Carolina, recognizes that there are studies suggesting that moderate drinking can benefit heart health, but is skeptical of their validity. “The idea that a little alcohol is good for your longevity, that’s not really considered the take-home message now,” he says.

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