Alcohol No Longer Thought to Increase Longevity
We have all seen headlines advocating a daily glass of red wine to protect the heart and increase your longevity, but recent research demonstrates this is not necessarily true.
The theory that 1 or 2 drinks each day may be associated with longevity has been debunked by a meta-analysis of 87 studies including nearly 4-M individuals, in which the researchers concluded that “low-volume alcohol consumption has no net mortality benefit compared with lifetime abstention or occasional drinking.”
A Key flaw linking alcohol with increased longevity is that researchers have categorized “abstaining” as those who never drink and included those who are not currently drinking. This becomes a problem as many stop drinking as they get older or suffer from an illness.
A study in Y 2005 found that 27 of 30 risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease were more common in a group of individuals who were categorized as abstaining from alcohol, using the criteria of those who are not currently drinking as an abstainer.
So, when comparing moderate drinkers to a group of unhealthy abstainers, drinkers appear to live longer. There is also strong evidence of a link between drinking alcohol and several different types of cancers.
The National Toxicology Program from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) lists alcohol as a known carcinogen associated with the development of head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
As a carbohydrate, your body metabolizes alcohol into sugar.
Alcohol may 2X your risk of developing certain cancers by increasing your exposure to acetaldehyde, a metabolite that damages DNA and stops your body from repairing the damage. The non-nutritional calories in alcohol also increase your risk of obesity and related health problems.
Alcohol also influences your blood glucose levels and contributes to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Alcohol is produced through a fermentation process, including fruits, vegetables and other additives to impact color, strength and flavor of the finished product.
The amount of alcohol one consumes dictates the effect it may have on your bodily systems. As a natural depressant or sedative, it usually makes you sleepier or drowsy as you drink. How much and how fast one drinks, and other factors such as age, weight, health and your tolerance to alcohol, will dictate how quickly you experience the effects.
Alcohol will create a more significant change in your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes. The resulting spikes in glucose also negatively affect your brain and liver cells, contributing toward further damage to your health.
Long-term alcohol use and abuse may also lead to other health conditions. It may be prudent to provide education that focuses on the needs of both men and women as the consumption gender gap between them is consistently narrowing over time.
In an analysis of the global burden of disease, researchers discovered that alcohol consumption was one of the leading risk factors, with pollution, smoking and high blood pressure. Alcohol consumption contributes to over 200 different diseases and injuries, and globally is the 5th leading risk factor for death and disability.
Long-term use of alcohol contributes to the development of high blood pressure, obesity, nerve damage, sexual problems, ulcers and gastritis.
Also, drinking too much contributes to an imbalance in your gut microbiome, which has a powerful influence on your physical and mental health.
Research has found that changes to intestinal microbiota are associated with an increased inflammatory response in the gut, hyperpermeability of the intestines and resulting systemic inflammation.
Researchers recommend using gut-directed interventions to lessen the effects of associated alcohol pathologies.
The most commonly recognized long-term effect of alcohol use is cirrhosis of the liver.
In this slowly progressive disease, the liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue preventing the organ from functioning. Blockage of the flow of blood reduces your ability to clear toxins and metabolize medications. Eventually, damage may lead to bleeding from the portal vein, and death.
Alcohol is a drug, and like all drugs you can drink too much and experience poisoning.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Loss of coordination
- Vomiting repeatedly and/or uncontrollably
- Cold, clammy hands, and bluish skin due to hypothermia
- Irregular or slow breathing (less than 8 breaths per min or more than 10 secs between breaths)
- Confusion, unconsciousness, stupor and sometimes coma
Although women are more vulnerable to poisoning and are more predisposed to suffer from long-term induced damage, it does not mean men are safe.
Women do not experience alcohol the same as men due to several physiological differences, such as:
- Impaired ability to dilute alcohol because they have lower percentage of body water. The average female only has 52% water in her body while the average male has 61%.
- Poor ability to metabolize alcohol because they have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme designed to break down alcohol in the body, than men.
- Hormones. Premenstrual hormone changes tend to make women get intoxicated more rapidly during the days before their period. Birth control pills and other estrogen-containing medications also slow down the excretion from the body.
Alcohol has been involved in some significant historical events, and may even have played a role in your life.
However you do, or do not, incorporate alcohol into your life, it does trigger significant changes to the way your body functions. It can impair decision-making skills and motor skills, contributing to motor vehicle accidents, violent behavior, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Excessive consumption can lead to alcohol poisoning, which may cost you your life. In the US there were an estimated 88,000 deaths and 2.5-M years of potential life lost annually between Y’s 2006 and 2010 related to alcohol poisoning.
Recent research has found the gender gap with its use and abuse that has existed between men and women for decades is now closing quickly. This may have a significant impact on public health initiatives and treatments.
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