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The pros and cons of alcohol to your health

I will start with a disclaimer. No matter the possible health benefits, alcohol is best consumed in moderation or not at all. Alcohol is known to cause insulin spikes, sleep disruption, weight gain and inflammation. Existing in the reality that most of us do, these facts don’t really matter, so let’s move on to how to drink while being mindful of your liver, inflammation and your waist.

If simplicity is what you seek, then this would be the singular rule: Wine before beer. Beer before mixed drinks. This rule is always true, except for when it is not.

From a purely “waist line” perspective, liquor, neat or on the rocks, is often the best choice. Another good rule is if you drink clear, you drink wisely. Vodka and gin are relatively low in calories and have no carboyhydrates. Whiskey and scotch add a few calories but are also relatively safe choices. Add a mixer to any of these, and the benefits of drinking liquor rapidly dissipate. An interesting fact is that vodka, per ounce, shows greater reductions in stress in the drinker than other varieties of alcohol. Yes, this was studied in a peer reviewed journal. Another notable when drinking liquor is the variable impact on inflammation. Dark liquors contain congeners which are produced during the fermentation process. Acetylaldehyde, perhaps the best known congener, is considered to be 30 times more poisonous than alcohol and is thought to be one of the main causes for hangovers.

In general, wine is a better overall choice when choosing to drink. It adds some calories and carbohydrates but gains some well documented health benefits. White wine tends to be lower in carbohydrates and calories. Red wine is richer in antioxidants. Studies have shown that red wine can actually reduce inflammation when consumed in moderation.

What about beer? While beer may offer some newly discovered health benefits, it is also high in calories and carbohydrates. Stouts are a better choice than lagers. While both have B12 and soluble fiber, only stouts have antioxidants. Many will reach for a light beer in an attempt to reduce calories. Unfortunately, less calories is associated with less alcohol. Some might drink more to gain the same effect.

In the end, if you are going to drink, drink as well as you can. When selecting a beverage, moderate red wine likely has the most health benefits and the best chance of reducing the inflammatory state of the body.

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