This post was originally published on September 15, 2015.
As far as I can tell, there has been a long-standing cold war between those who drink and those who don’t. There are heated debates about how good, bad or harmless alcohol is. Studies that support the idea that wine can be good for your heart and that moderate drinkers live longer are all over the web—so are ones that show drinking wine can be detrimental to your health and that no amount of alcohol is safe. So which is it?
Different Strokes for Different Folks
If I had to guess, I would say that whether drinking is a good or bad idea depends on the person. If you have heart disease in your family, it’s probably helpful to drink one (for a woman) or two (for a man) glasses of wine a night, since red wine is shown to help reduce cholesterol. The problem is, the health benefits of Pinot Noir very quickly turn to health risks when consumption falls outside of this very small window. On the other hand, if you happen to have breast cancer in your family, it’s probably a really bad idea to indulge in even one glass of wine, as studies have shown it’s linked to breast cancer. There really isn’t any wiggle room when it comes to drinking wine, despite the idea many people have that more is better.
One Beer, in the Clear?
Now suppose you aren’t a wine drinker. When it comes to affects on the body, is enjoying a few beers after work or during the game on Sunday something lager-lovers need to be concerned about? A recent article in The Daily Mail breaks down exactly how even one beer changes your bodily functions. The good news—there doesn’t seem to be too much to worry about.
Unless, of course, you are concerned about your weight. According to a chart created by Yahoo Health, the most alarming issue presented by having a beer is the drop in blood sugar, causing the person drinking to want to snack. So not only are you dealing with the empty calories in the beer itself, you are putting yourself at risk for additional calorie consumption if you give in to your body’s cravings. And if you have ever been to a sports bar, you know that most hungry beer-drinkers aren’t reaching for a seaweed salad—unless that seaweed salad is made out of chicken wings.
Other than making you hungry, consuming one beer also immediately causes your brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that tells your body something good is happening. This rewarding feeling typically makes a person (especially if you are of the alcoholic/addict persuasion) want to do more of whatever activity is causing it. So, as alcoholics are well aware, having one beer chemically increases the desire (and therefore chances) to have a second—not a problem if the buck stops there. I know for me, there are few things more unpleasant than ceasing an activity that feels good so the buck rarely stopped there, it usually went towards buying the next drink.
The Silver Bullet Has a Silver Lining
On the bright side, drinking one beer floods your body with antioxidants! This has shown to help reduce the risk of cataracts (not that you should have a beer in lieu of your morning blueberries). A single beer does make you feel like you have to pee more, which could come in handy on that awful first date (when any excuse to leave the table is a welcome one). Plus, one beer lowers your inhibitions slightly, reducing the anxiety many people experience during even a good first date (or any social interaction). I always thought I was a people person. Then I got sober and realized people frighten me and what I really am is a drinking person. I’m everyone’s best friend as long as cocktails are involved. Otherwise, I’m as reclusive as Lauryn Hill (where did she go?).
As Always, Moderation Is the Key
All in all, the affect of alcohol on our bodies comes down to what we have always known: drinking in moderation has pros and cons, both relatively inconsequential. However, consuming more alcohol than the recommended amount (one drink a day for woman and two a day for men) becomes toxic and swiftly eliminates any health benefits drinking may have.