How to use Alcohol for Health

December 19, 2011

How To Use Alcohol For Health
Since the beginning of man there has been an attraction to ferment foodstuffs to produce alcohol. Alcohol is the most misused drug in the world with its excessive use causing untold misery to families, individuals and communities. Its financial and social costs are huge and it causes a greatly increased death rate from accidents and health related illnesses. Yet its widespread use is still condoned by most communities in the world and there seems little hope of that changing. Prohibition tried many years ago in America did not work.
For years the “French Paradox” where a nation with a high intake of saturated fats also had a low rate of coronary heart disease puzzled the medical world. One explanation was they also had a high red wine intake. While it is problematical that this is the only reason it did lead to large scale studies on the effect of alcohol on health. The end result of these studies shows quite conclusively that a moderate alcohol intake does reduce the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. This article discusses this in more detail and outlines how alcohol can be used to give a positive health outcome if is consumed in moderate amounts.
This article is not written to encourage people to drink but it is saying drink in moderation and the benefits are likely to outweigh the negatives. Doctors have known for years that the occasional drink could be better for health than complete abstinence. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown by many studies over recent years to have better health and longevity outcomes than total abstinence or heavy drinking. In terms of alcohol type, red wine has been marginally better than beer which has been marginally better than spirits.
While some of these differences can be put down to anti oxidant type compounds there does seem a beneficial effect from the alcohol itself as a number of studies show

Some of these studies are.
• Alcohol Benefits Begin at 33 : Dr Chris Power – Lancet 2004

• Reaping Alcohol’s Benefit : National Institute of Health – June 2004 Clinical & Experimental Research

• Moderate Alcohol Consumption could help protect women against Osteoporosis : St Thomas Hospital- July 2004 Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases

• A glass of wine a day keeps prostate cancer away: Janet Stanford – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle. USA

• Regular drink helps the heart after surgery : University of Heidelberg, Germany – Oct 2004 Heart

• Glass of wine for longer life : Leisure World Cohort Study – Sept meeting 56Ih American Academy of Neurology

• Alcohol may fight heart attack damage : Dr Rod Korthuis – University Missouri-Columbia ( published study)

• Alcohol helps older women’s grey cells : Dr Graham McDougall – University of Texas 5 year study

• Compounds found in wine could inhibit Alzheimer’s : Dr Michikatsu Sato Govt Alcohol R&D Centre, .Japan – Journal of Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry Vol 67

How many drinks provide just the benefits and not the harm? It depends on whether a person is most at risk of heart disease, diabetes or breast cancer. But there is one bottom line: Five or six drinks only on Saturday night will provide no benefits, while a drink or two a night might.
The analysis by the National Institutes of Health sorted out a plethora of sometimes conflicting research on alcohol’s effects. The review was prompted by cardiologists’ complaints that patients suddenly were asking if they should start imbibing, and how much. Other research is overturning the dogma that people at risk of diabetes should abstain; still more links even light drinking to breast cancer.
Adding confusion, people are vulnerable to more than one disease as they age. A 50-year old woman with breast cancer in the family might get very different advice on alcohol than one who’s pre-diabetic with high cholesterol.
The review states we are not encouraging anybody to start drinking alcoholism remains a major health problem, and people with liver disease may not tolerate even moderate drinking.
Instead, the review is aimed at people who already drink some and concludes that to get alcohol’s potential health benefits, how much those people can consume must be customized by their age, gender and overall medical history.
As population-wide advice, consuming two drinks a day for men and one a day for women is linked to lower mortality and unlikely to harm, the review found men shouldn’t exceed four drinks on any day, and women three – bingeing is simply bad.
But review’s disease-by-disease findings provide better details:
• Studies consistently show that in people 40 or older, consuming one to four drinks daily significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, the nation’s leading killer. In contrast, five or more drinks daily markedly increase the heart risk.
• However, frequency seems the key; consuming smaller amounts several times a week – one or two daily or every other day – is most heart-protective. It apparently takes low, regular alcohol exposure to help raise levels of the body’s so-called good cholesterol, the HDL type, and to thin blood.
• The alcohol-breast cancer link remains controversial. Some studies suggest a small increase in risk that roughly 9 in 100 non drinkers may get breast cancer by age 80, compared with 10 in 100 women who consume two drinks a day. Per person that’s a tiny risk. But women whose mothers or sisters had breast cancer, or those taking post-menopausal estrogens replacement are at greater risk from alcohol. Those women must weigh the fear of breast cancer against their risk of heart disease in deciding whether to avoid alcohol.
• One to two drinks a day several days per week seems to lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes, a disease rising at epidemic proportions. Low levels of alcohol apparently help the body use insulin to process blood sugar better. The benefit was seen among the overweight and those with “metabolic syndrome,” a cluster of pre-diabetic weight-related symptoms that include high blood pressure and poor cholesterol.
• There’s no known safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, but what about while breast-feeding? Nursing mothers who want an occasional drink should consume it several hours before the next feeding, enough time to metabolize the alcohol so little reaches the infant. And contrary to folklore, alcohol does not aid lactation but temporarily decreases milk production.
• How much is a drink a day? 140 ml of wine, 340 ml of beer or 42 ml of distilled spirits is generally accepted as the standard. That is a glass of wine or a small bottle.
A study recently in Spain showed a significant weight loss from the consumption of red wine in moderation. Of all the alcohol types red wine seems the most desirable. This likely because of the presence of resveratrol in red wine, a compound that has been shown to have definite health benefits and is available in many health food shops in a capsule formulation.
So to sum up, heavy drinkers have the worst outcomes but moderate drinkers, that is, 1-3 drinks for men and 1-2 for woman on a daily basis, have a better life expectancy and health outcomes than total abstainers.


Some fat is included in almost all our diets and 20% is not an unusual amount. However it is not the exact amount we consume that matters, it is the type of fat/oil that is the critical factor. This article outlines the types of fat in many of our foodstuffs, how they affect our health and gives a guide to the healthiest fats/oils to use.
There are three main fat groupings, the unsaturated fats – the best ones, saturated fats – the bad ones and trans fats – the real evil ones. Healthy use of fats means maximising the good fats and minimising the bad ones. The result of this will be lower bad cholesterol and higher good cholesterol leading to a much lower risk of heart attack or stroke.

These are divided into two groups, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, both of which are good for you. Examples are:
Monounsaturated – olive, peanut, almond and avocado oils, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Polyunsaturated – fish, walnut and sunflower oils. Omega 3 oils are in this category.

The main ones we consume and need to cut back on are
Fatty meats, full cream dairy products especially butter, coconut oil

These are the ones that cause the most harm. Really cut these back only using as a special treat. A trans fat is a normal fat molecule that has been twisted and deformed during a process called hydrogenation. During this process, liquid vegetable oil is heated and combined with hydrogen gas. Partially hydrogenating vegetable oils makes them more stable and less likely to spoil, which is very good for food manufacturers—and very bad for you.
No amount of trans fats is healthy. Trans fats contribute to major health problems, from heart disease to cancer.
The main sources are
• Margarine – the solid form
• Baked goods – biscuits, crackers, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, pizza dough, and some breads like hamburger buns
• Fried foods – doughnuts, French fries, fried chicken, chicken nuggets and battered fast foods
• Snack foods – potato chips; sweets; packaged or microwave popcorn
• Solid fats – stick margarine and semi-solid vegetable shortening
• Premixed products – many contain hydrogenated oils
You need to be a trans fat detective and look for the words “hydrogenated oil” on the label ingredients. Many good oils are changed in this fashion to become dangerous.
So with this sort of information what should we do? A suggested rule of thumb is
• Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
• Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
• Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
What specific things do I do to try and use good fats?
• Use an olive oil based soft spread – not butter or margarine
• Make up my own dressings based around virgin olive oil
• When cooking use a high smoke point / low saturated fat oil
• The best are avocado or rice bran oils – I use rice bran as it is often on special at supermarket
• Eat less red meat and more fish and chicken
• Go for lean cuts of meat
• Bake, broil, or grill instead of frying.
• Remove the skin from chicken and trim as much fat off of meat as possible before cooking.
• Avoid breaded meats and vegetables and deep-fried foods.
• Choose low-fat milk and lower-fat cheeses like edam
An additional point is about olive oil. It is a great product and has some valuable components in addition to being an unsaturated fat. But to get the best from it you need to use the right grade for the right purpose
Virgin or extra Virgin – use this for dressings or any cold use, it has the best flavour and the most extra value components. Don’t cook with it as if over heated can produce some trans fats
Light or very Light – less flavour and other components but higher smoking point and better to cook with (still prefer rice bran or avocado).
So to summarise.
Food is not only essential but also an important pleasure in our life. But we need to try and eat in a healthy manner and eat the less desirable foods only on special occasions and as special treats. It is not the end of the world to have the odd feed of fish and chips or some biscuits or snacks.
Just restrict their intake.