Health Q&A: Is Alcohol Healthy?

Health Q & A is a LKN Connect Health & Wellness column published monthly. The readership is invited to submit questions falling within the fields of health promotion, wellness, and disease prevention. Content areas can include nutrition, diet, weight loss, supplementation, fitness, exercise, stress and anxiety, ancestral health, and epigenetics among others. Please direct questions for Health Q & A directly to Wayne Coolidge wayne@healthydynamicliving.com 

 

 

 

 

Rita C. asks: Is alcohol Paleo and is it healthy in moderation? I’m particularly interested in the health benefits of wine.

 

 

 

 

I discuss benefits of alcohol consumption with reservation and with the full understanding that some people cannot and should not drink. Do not consider this an endorsement of alcohol consumption. However, the question has been asked and this is an answer based on some of the potential benefits discussed in the scientific literature.

 

 

 

 

For this answer I’ll define the varieties of alcohol as beer, wine, champagne, and spirits

Alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) in its many forms can be either Paleo or non-Paleo, health enhancing or life destroying.

 

 

 

Wine and champagne are the only popular forms of alcohol that are considered Paleo

Both are made from fermented grapes. Mead, made from fermented honey, meets the criteria, but there hasn’t been a lot of mead drinking going on since the days of Beowulf. Liquor and beer that are distilled and brewed from grains are not Paleo.

 

Alcohol consumption can provide a lot of calories in a short time

Alcohol in its pure form consists of 7 calories per gram, as opposed to 4 each for carbohydrate and protein and 9 for fat. Even so, alcohol consumption in moderation does present certain health benefits. Wine has been associated with the “French paradox,” which is the name given to the phenomenon associated with wine drinkers inheriting health protections. Consuming red wine may aid in the prevention and control of cardiovascular and chronic degenerative diseases through its ability to reduce inflammation and low-density lipoprotein oxidation[1].

 

Celebrate your new healthy lifestyle, if appropriate for you, with an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich glass of champagne.

Most of the credit for health protections goes to red wine, but champagne and dry white wines offer significant protections as well, perhaps in a less painful package. Red wines contain histamine and tannins that may not be well tolerated by some. Champagne is fermented from grapes; like red wine, it’s loaded with antioxidant-producing polyphenols. It falls under the category of whole food because nothing is added to the grapes but the fizz.

 

No more than 1 or 2 drinks per day

Benefit from the protective effects of alcohol by consuming 1 or 2 drinks per day, depending on body size[2]. Anything more, and the health benefits increasingly become health deficits. Pure alcohol calories are void of nutrients. The more alcohol calories that you consume, the less likely you are to eat enough food to obtain adequate nutrients. A compounding factor is that excessive alcohol consumption interferes with the body’s metabolism of nutrients, damaging the liver and potentially every organ in the body.

 

Glycemic index (GL)

Alcohol, including beer, has a minimal impact on blood sugar. The low carbohydrate content of straight alcohol makes it impossible to test the glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index of lager beer is high at around 100 however, the glycemic load (GL) of beer is a low 7.5. A great health tip is to use GL when considering a foods contribution to blood sugar spikes. GL illustrates the effect of the food on blood sugar rather than simply how much sugar is in the food.

I read in popular literature that someone would have to drink a case of beer in 20 minutes to get an appreciable blood sugar spike. Don’t check it out yourself though. I typically distrust popular literature but crunching the load/time numbers found the assessment probably not that far-fetched. I do know that darker beers, like stouts, have a higher sugar level, but they also produce a greater positive effect on the cardiovascular system than lighter beers.

 

 

 

Conclusion – Do NOT consider this article an endorsement

 

Again. Don’t consider this an endorsement of alcohol consumption. Do take this information and determine how this information may or may not fit into your personal lifestyle.

 

Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don’t drink too much. Then again, don’t drink too little.  — Herman “Jackrabbit” Smith-Johannsen

 

 

  1. Di Renzo L, Marsella LT, Carraro A, et al. Changes in LDL oxidative status and oxidative and inflammatory gene expression after red wine intake in healthy people: a randomized trial. Mediators Inflamm. 2015;2015:317348.
  2. World Health Organization. Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health 2004. Available at: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/strategy/eb11344/strategy_english_web.pdf

 

Q&A images courtesy Pixabay.com

 

 

 

Wayne Coolidge, Jr., M.Ed. is a Health Promotion Scholar-Practitioner and owner of Wayne Coolidge Health Promotion, a consulting firm specializing in healthy aging, nutrition, nutritional supplementation, fat loss, fitness, and disease prevention. His latest health initiative is the creation of Shield Maiden Life, LLC, a lifestyle optimization experience inspired by Scandinavian culture and the healthiest, strongest, and most empowered women the world has ever known. Wayne’s Web sites are: www.waynecoolidge.com. and www.shieldmaidenlife.com You can email him at wayne@healthydynamicliving.com.

 

 

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