In a city full of university students, it comes as no surprise to learn that Montreal is one of the most alcohol-friendly cities in Canada.
Since most students are tired of hearing how drinking is so bad for them, it may be of interest to know that some alcoholic beverages do have health benefits. Truth is, no matter how hard I look for a miracle drink, it never manifested… but all hope is not lost!
At this point in time, red wine is the only alcoholic beverage with scientifically proven benefits.
“Because the skin of red grapes contains polyphenols (such as resveratrol), red wine has an important antioxidant power,” said Anne-Marie Gagné, nutritionist at Trois-Rivières’ Health and Social Services Centre. “This doesn’t apply to white wine, since it doesn’t contain the same type of grapes, but red wine has proven to be effective against certain heart diseases, Type 2 diabetes and cognitive decline in old age,” she added.
Resveratrol is a type of antioxidant found naturally in other fruits as well such as blueberries and cranberries.
However, not everybody enjoys a glass of red wine, and some researchers say it might not be the only brand of booze which has health benefits. Madrid scientists, Rayo Llerena and Marin Huerta, have found that alcohol, regardless of the type, can have the same benefits as wine. The subjects of the study were given beer, wine and vodka, showing that ethanol is the beneficial ingredient. In small quantities, ethanol can decrease cardiovascular mortality from heart disease and stroke as compared to non-drinkers, according to the United States National Library of Medicine.
This mind-blowing declaration is explained by the duo’s belief that alcohol can elevate HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and can decrease LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), therefore making us healthier.
On top of that, a study conducted by researchers of Oregon State University found that alcohol, consumed in moderation, could also improve bone density, and therefore prevent fractures. According to Urszula Iwaniec, an associate professor and one of the study’s authors, this could especially affect postmenopausal women.
A similar study in Australia, directed by Professor Howard Morris from the Hanson Institute, focused specifically on beer and discovered its health benefits on human bones. The study was based on a sample of 1,700 women with an average age of 48. They were asked about their drinking and underwent ultrasound scans of the hands, as finger bones are the first to show any signs of osteoporosis. The results concluded that the bones of the beer drinkers were denser, thus stronger.
Beer is known to be a great source of dietary silicon, an ingredient that plays a major role in increasing bone mineral density. More specifically, beer that contains high levels of hops and malted barley are richest in silicon.
Eureka! We have finally proven that drinking is good for us! Of course, like everything else, alcohol should be consumed in moderation. “One glass per day for women and two for men,” said Gagné.
Furthermore, we should also be wary that sometimes published studies are later proven to be false. We must keep in mind that scientific studies are peer-reviewed and sometimes biased. Almost everything we consume is a healer one week and a killer the next, so we must use our judgment when comparing scientific results.
In addition, it has not been proven that drinking, even in moderate amounts, is good for the general population. Being intoxicated increases our chances of dying of other causes, especially injury, cirrhosis of the liver and some types of cancer thereby outweighing the benefits cited earlier.
Aside from the pros and cons of alcohol that change with every newly published study, calorie intake is one that is inevitable. Drink hard liquor alone or with mineral water rather than juice or soda or drink light beer because “one gram of alcohol is twice as fattening as one gram of sugar,” says Gagné.