How Bad is Alcohol Really for your Health?
The Question: How many drinks of alcohol do you have per WEEK?
How Your Response Matches Up
Less than 1
RiskAverse Conditions Affected
Diabetes Type 2
End-stage Renal Disease
Substance Use Disorder
Navigating Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is a big part of our society. Parties, happy hours, dinner with drinks, and much more are ways we are consistently surrounded by it. Many know that it is not great for your health, but we continue to drink on a regular basis. We could tell you to quit drinking altogether to be your healthiest, but that is not a realistic goal. Instead, we want to present you with the health effects of different amounts of drinking and offer tips on how to optimize your drinking to allow you to practice healthy consumption that is not significantly detrimental to your health.
Hint: moderation and a variety of sources can be part of a healthy lifestyle
Statistics on Drinking in America
The idea of drinking is not a major concern of ours when it comes to disease prevention, but rather, regular binge drinking and concerns of abuse.
85.6% have drank ever
69.5% in the past year
54.9% in the last month
25.8% engaged in binge drinking (2x the standard intake)
Age 21-25 most likely to binge drink
Alcohol Use Disorder
5.3% are believed to suffer (9.0 million men, 5.5 million women)
7% sought treatment
So what are the negative effects and how much do you need to consume to lead to these effects?
Alcohol and Associated Health Outcomes
Moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink a day) has actually been shown to have a reduced risk for conditions including cancer and heart disease. As mentioned earlier, we see do not see a need for immediate change to your lifestyle when you practice moderate drinking. Consistently averaging 2 drinks a day is when we start to see negative effects across most disease states.
Alcohol and Cancer
some cancers (oral, throat, and colorectal) show minor negative effects at moderate drinking. Those outside of the digestive tract do not display significantly negative effects until 2 drinks/day.
- Breast Cancer– moderate consumption is inconclusive, but higher intakes (2 or more a day) show up to 2x increased risk. (2)
- Colorectal Cancer– Those that drank 0-1/day, 1-3/day, and 4+/day showed a 7%, 38%, and 82% increased incidence compared to those that never drank. (3)
- Lung Cancer– some studies have shown increased risk at 2 or more drinks/day, but consistent results have never been observed.
Alcohol and Chronic Conditions
Across many of the major chronic conditions, the results are varied. Some studies show reduced risk while others increased risk. But again, at 2 or more drinks a day the negative effects are consistent.
- Heart Disease- at one drink a day, the risk has been shown to be reduced. Especially when you consume types developed from natural sources (beer, red wine, and cider). When you consume more than one drink per day, negative effects like increased cholesterol and blood pressure are observed, which both correlate to increased heart disease risk. (4)
- Diabetes Type 2 – Moderate intake has not shown to increase your risk, but high intake does as it negatively alters blood sugar levels. (5)
- End-Stage Renal Disease – Also known as kidney failure, patients with chronic kidney disease that consume 2 or more alcoholic beverages are at increased risk of kidney failure. (6)
Alcohol Use Disorder
Have concerns about your usage? Assess your risk here.
Alcohol is an addictive substance. Therefore, consuming it always offers the risk of developing a dependency. Certain people are more likely than others to develop an addiction.
- Those suffering from anxiety and depression.
- People who grew up in a household with heavy drinking.
- If you have experienced trauma in your life.
- Anyone that enjoys risky activities
- Those with low self-esteem or self-worth.
Many of these factors are internal, mental health, factors that do not always come up to the surface. The most important thing you can do is be open about your mental health struggles and seek help when you are struggling, rather than turning to alcohol to “numb” the pain.
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
- Drinking alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than you had originally intended
- Wanting or trying to cut back or control your alcohol use but struggle to do so successfully
Spending much of your time on activities related to alcohol – this includes the drinking itself, recovering from hangovers, and the physical side-effects of drinking
- Craving alcohol so badly that it consumes all of your thoughts
- Dealing with alcohol or hangovers that interfere with work, family, or other responsibilities
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though it causes problems with your family or friends
- Giving up on important activities or interesting hobbies that you once liked in order to drink alcohol
- Getting into unsafe or risky situations while or after drinking, such as walking in a dangerous area, fighting, swimming, driving, or having unsafe sex
- Drinking even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious, causes memory loss from blackouts, or contributes to any other health problems
- Drinking much more to get the effect you want or noticing that your usual number of drinks has less of an effect over time
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like insomnia, irritable mood, upset stomach, or even a seizure, after the alcohol wears off
Mild Alcohol-Use Disorder: 2-3 of the above criteria.
Moderate Alcohol Use Disorder: 4-5 of the above criteria.
Severe Alcohol Use Disorder: 6+ of the above criteria.
Incorporating Healthy Boosts to your Drinking
- Binge drinking is a lot harder when you have to consume a lot of volume. By this logic, shots should be your least sought-after type of alcohol.
- Going on the same theme, hard liquor has been stripped of its nutritive components, so shoot for options that still have some value. These include beer, red wine, and cider.
- Beer contains the antioxidant xanthohumol, which has anti-tumor effects.
- Cider has the antioxidants that are found in apples.
- Red wine is one of the best sources of resveratrol, a potent anti-aging compound.
- Use real fruit juices when making a mix drink. Lime, lemon, mango, pineapple, and grapefruit are great choices.
- Herbs and spices can offer extra flavor and anti-inflammatory properties. We enjoy ginger, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary, and cilantro as a few options of inspiration.
- Often alcohol leads to poor dietary choices. It is important to try to avoid these choices and do your best to eat healthy. You will also be a lot happier the next day if you eat healthier…
- Water consumption is also really important, as you will dehydrate over the period you drink. Drinking water hydrates you and slows down your pace.
We would love to just “just stop drinking”, but often that is way harder said than done. Moderation and variety are your two biggest friends if you choose to drink, but want to live a healthy lifestyle. Even these options we have listed do not make drinking healthy, especially when you drink to excess. If you have concerns about your drinking, the best place to start is with your primary care professional. They know you best to assess the severity of your situation and will help you find the best, in-network, resources.