Wellness

So Wait, Is Alcohol Good Or Bad For You?

By Bianca O'Neill - 22 Jan 2016

is alcohol good for you

As FebFast approaches, over here at The Urban List we thought it was high time to start talking about alcohol. This month we've seen the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released, which brings into question the old adage that a healthy diet is void of alcohol. However, at the same time across the pond in the UK, we've been hearing that the long-held assumption that a glass of red wine is good for you is actually not true at all.

So wait, is alcohol good or bad for you? We take a closer look at the reports below.

2015 US Dietary Guidelines: Alcohol Is Beneficial... In Moderation

As January 2016 ticked over, we saw the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report - and it had some surprising claims about alcohol, and the integration of alcohol as part of a healthy diet. Firstly, let's get one obvious thing out of the way straight off the bat: the report emphasized that the references to 'drinking alcohol' should always be in moderation - defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.

Specifically, it made some interesting conclusions that drinking in moderation “can help individuals achieve healthy eating patterns,” and confirms that light to moderate alcohol consumption can actually be part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

UK Health Chief: Alcohol Is Linked To Cancer

England's Chief Medical Officer, however, has a completely different opinion about alcohol and its links to your health and wellbeing. She reckons we need to stop thinking that a glass of red wine is good for our heart, saying that the theory is an 'old wives tale' - and that we need to acknowledge the clear link between alcohol and risk of cancer.

"Every year, over 20,000 of people in the UK have a diagnosis of cancer made consequent on drinking alcohol. I would argue that we have to be very careful in making sure that the public know the risks of drink just as they need to know the risk of obesity and other lifestyle issues so they can take their choice and live their lives." 

She does admit, however, that this risk is 'low' if people drank less than 14 units, and those were spread over three or four days rather than consumed in binge sessions.

However Rob Lyons, campaigns manager for Action on Consumer Choice, countered: "The claim that there is no safe level of drinking flies in the face of the weight of studies showing that those who drink moderately have better or similar health outcomes to teetotallers. The new guidelines seem devoid of common sense. They will be widely ignored by most drinkers but will cause unnecessary alarm for some."

British Medical Journal: The Risks of FebFast and DryJuly

Also this week, SMH reports that some health professionals believe there is a significant risk for those who drink heavily joining a sudden alcohol-related fast during events like FebFast and DryJuly.

Ian Hamilton, a substance abuse expert from York University in the UK, claims that heavy drinkers are at risk of the serious side effects of withdrawl such as seizures if they were to talk part without medical input. He also points to evidence that such events don't disuade drinking in the long term, or effect significant change in drinking behaviours - and might even encourage dangerous binge drinking once the event is over.

But What About Back Here In Australia?

Back here at home, the Australian standard states that "for healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury." And let's be honest: alcohol related violence is a real problem in Australia, as evidenced in media coverage of late.

In the end, it comes down to one simple thing: Moderation is key when you're talking about changes to your diet and health plan, in any form. If you're unable to succesfully achieve moderation alone, then it's time to talk to someone about it - be it a friend, a family member, or a health professional. An integrated plan for stepping back from excessive alcohol consumption in a healthy way is always recommended.

If you need more information about alcohol abuse for yourself, or someone you know, there are people out there who can help! Try DrinkWise or LifeLine.

Image credit: Firefly Facebook

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