Studies about the effects moderate alcohol consumption have on the human heart have created a tug-of-war in medical research fields all around the world. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but could a daily glass of pinot noir do the same? Does the way a person drinks their margaritas affect their heart?
Not in the sense of blended or on the rocks, but is one drink seven days a week really healthier than one “tooled out” Taco Tuesday?
Last year, researchers from the British Medical Journal studied the alcohol consumption patterns of people in Ireland and France, the two countries that statistically drink the most worldwide.
Despite a difference in drinking patterns, total weekly alcohol consumption was similar in both countries. Throughout the week, the Irish who were studied drank about 281.7 grams of alcohol while the French drank 254.6 grams of alcohol.
Evidence from another study showed hard coronary events were twice as prevalent in the Irish region than in the French region.
The BMJ study found binge drinking was 20 times more prevalent in Irish citizens than in French citizens and that binge drinking doubled the risk of heart disease compared to moderate drinking.
Results also showed nondrinkers had similar heart risks as binge drinkers, and consuming wine instead of beer or sprits reduced heart risk. However, these additional findings were insufficient because the study had a low capability of detecting outside factors that may have affected the results.
But what is the difference between binge drinkers and moderate drinkers, and what is a healthy amount of alcohol consumption for the heart? A 2006 study from the British Nutrition Foundation stated that men who drink about three to four units of alcohol a day or 24 to 32 grams were not at risk.
Women should drink two to three units a day or 16 to 24 grams. Note two units is equal to about a pint of ordinary strength lager or one 125 milliliter small glass of wine. This study recommended the best amount of alcohol for the heart was drinking 25 grams a day for men and 10 grams a day for women. It also reminds the public that although some studies claim wine is healthier than other types of alcohol, wine drinkers typically have a healthier lifestyle in general so further studies need to be conducted.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use is defined as more than two drinks per day on average for men and more than one drink per day on average for women. Binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more drinks for women. The American Heart Association defined one drink as a 12 ounce beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits.
Clearly society is stepping beyond the boundaries of safety with this substance. According to the CDC, “excessive alcohol use (is) the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for (the nation).”
More research needs to be conducted on this topic, and although it seems moderate alcohol may be good for the heart, studies have not adequately shown what type of alcohol is best and in the end, people all around the world are surpassing the healthy limit.