Is there anything like good alcohol? Find out | The Financial Express

Is there anything like good alcohol? Find out

What gives birth to the notion that certain types of alcohol are good for health is the presence of certain compounds that can be beneficial for the body

Is there anything like good alcohol? Find out
Studies also suggest whisky can be beneficial as it reduces bad cholesterol and fat in blood

Wine is good for the heart. Beer is good for kidney stones. Brandy is good for cough and cold. Whisky can reduce inflammation and bad cholesterol. Rum keeps the body warm. We have all come across such ‘home remedies’ and often end up using them as excuses to consume alcohol.  One of the most popular is the consumption of brandy during winters. Sometimes, even the young ones are given a teaspoonful with warm water to help fight cough and cold.

But do these alcoholic remedies work? Is there any such thing as good alcohol? Dr Deepak Namjoshi, founder and director of Criticare Asia Hospital and Research Centre, says, “Various anecdotal stories circulate about health benefits of alcohol. These stories don’t have scientific research supporting them. Gullible individuals and people from the alcohol industry have always supported alcohol consumption under various pretexts. Alcohol has a high incidence of addiction and a genuine liver toxicity apart from noxious effects on various body parts. Hence, alcohol consumption is not medically recommended.”

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Dr Pravin Kahale, consultant, cardiology, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, seconds Dr Namjoshi. “As far as cough and cold are concerned, rather than improving, alcohol can worsen those conditions. On one hand, while the increased blood flow can increase congestion, on the other, it can reduce mucus formation. There’s scientifically no study to say it can help in the ailment.”

\What gives birth to the notion that certain types of alcohol are good for health is the presence of certain compounds that can be beneficial for the body. For instance, polyphenols are present in red wine and in beer. They help in preventing blood clots, lower risks of heart diseases, and reduce blood sugar levels. But it’s important to note that polyphenols are also present in significant amounts in fruits like blueberries, black currants, blackberries, spices like cloves, star anise, peppermints, cocoa powder, flax seeds and in nuts as well.

Similarly, having grapes can be a healthier alternative to wines that also have alcohol in them and therefore, might not be as healthy as grapes. Grapes are known to be good sources of potassium that help in bringing down blood pressure and lowering risks of heart diseases. Grapes are also rich in vitamin E, which means they are good for hair and skin and may also prevent acne. They may also help with inflammation and weight loss, among other benefits.

Beer, for instance, is said to be good for memory and thinking skills, fighting heart diseases and diabetes and is said to prevent heart failure. However, moderate amounts are advised for the same. The benefits can also be had with a healthy lifestyle, regular exercises and meditation. For instance, thinking skills and memory power can be enhanced with getting the right amounts of sleep, learning something new, being physically active and, according to Harvard Heath Publishing, through foods such as green vegetables, fatty fish, berries, tea and coffee, and walnuts.

Studies also suggest whisky can be beneficial as it reduces bad cholesterol and fat in blood. However, a healthier alternative to reduce bad cholesterol could be increasing intake of soluble fibre, omega 3 fatty acids, whey protein, and exercising. Experts also suggest having whisky on the rocks, rather than diluting it as it tastes better.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national public health agency of the United States, the short-term risks related with alcohol consumption include miscarriages, alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviour and violence, whereas the long-term impact could be high blood pressure, weakening of the immune system, social problems, alcohol use disorders, memory issues and so on.

The CDC also suggests that alcohol use impacts women differently. “Although men are more likely to drink alcohol and consume larger amounts, biological differences in body structure and chemistry lead most women to absorb more alcohol and take longer to metabolise it. After drinking the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men, and the immediate effects of alcohol usually occur more quickly and last longer in women than men. These differences make women more susceptible to the long-term negative health effects of alcohol compared with men,” the CDC states in an article titled, Excessive alcohol use is a risk to women’s health.

Dr Kahale adds, “As far as the heart is concerned, we are dealing with a pandemic of diabetes. Alcohol consumption increases calories and is a risk factor for many types of cancers like throat cancer, esophageal cancer and colon cancer. It also causes heart failure, hypertension and direct toxins for heart and liver. We see many cases of alcoholic patients with complete damage of the liver due to liver cirrhosis and heart related issues like dilated cardiomyopathy. Small studies show how wine has good polyphenols and is good for blood vessels but overall, there’s a risk with alcohol. I would say alcohol consumption is never good for the heart. Wine contains chemicals which are also present in grapes and fruits. So, one must increase consumption of that rather than saying that wine has one good component and so, let’s increase consumption of that.”

If at all, alcohol has to be consumed, not for health benefits but for leisure, experts say it must be done in moderate quantities instead of taking it on a regular basis and in excessive amounts. Alcohol, add experts, must also never be treated as medicines in certain cases and prescribed medications must be considered the preferred options.  

Dr Aditya S Chowti, senior consultant – internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, Bengaluru, says, “There’s nothing like good alcohol. We have always seen people suffer from the ill-effects of alcohol. Anything in excess is harmful to health and so is alcohol. There has been some speculation that certain types of alcohol may be good for health like red wine that has resveratrol. which may have certain beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Other than that, there’s nothing like good alcohol and it shouldn’t be encouraged for health.”

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First published on: 06-11-2022 at 02:00 IST