Wednesday, February 27, 2008

· Moderate consumption cuts heart-attack risk by raising HDL cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clot formation.
· May protect the brain against age-related dementia.
· In small amounts, it can improve appetite and aid digestion.
· May foster a happy mood.
· Can provoke mood swings, aggression, and hangovers. Can be addictive.
· Interacts with many medications.
· Over time, moderate to high intake increases the risk of cancers, as well as heart and live disease.

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol), the main active ingredient of alcoholic beverages, is made by yeast fermentation of starch or sugar.
Unlike most foods, alcohol is not digested; 95 percent of it is absorbed into the blood-stream from the stomach and small intestine within an hour. The liver breaks down, or metabolizes, alcohol; the time this takes depends upon whether the alcohol is ingested with food and upon the person’s sex, weight, body type, and tolerance level, which increase with time and use.

Does alcohol provide other protective health benefits? And can protection come with red wine only?
The risk of a heart attack lowers because alcohol reduces the detrimental effects of elevated blood cholesterol while also preventing clot formation. High levels of either raise the risk of heart disease.
It is not just red wine that’s protective. The results of several have linked the moderate consumption of alcohol with a 32 percent lower risk of heart attack, and a decrease in stroke of 20 to 28 percent.

A 2002 study reports that people who imbibe moderately daily were 70 percent less likely than nondrinkers to develop dementia, an age-related decline in mental ability; they were also more than 30 percent less likely to Alzheimer’s disease. Alcohol appears to offer a number of brain-related benefits. It thins the blood and helps prevent clots from jamming tiny blood vessels in the brain; and it appears to stimulate the release of acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in learning and memory.
Consume no more than two drinks daily. Alcohol’s protective effects are indeed impressive, also show that over-consumption may significantly raise the risk of developing a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, liver disease, stroke, dementia, and several kinds of cancer, including cancer of the liver, pancreas, esophagus, and mouth. Also alcohol is addictive. Overindulgence quickly erases any benefits. Even a weekend of heavy drinking causes a buildup of fatty cells in the liver. While this organ has remarkable recuperative powers, continued use of alcohol can lead to permanent liver damage and problems with glucose metabolism, and eventually scarring, or cirrhosis.
Alcohol also interferes with the body’s metabolism of various vitamins and minerals. Women at risk for breast cancer should moderate their consumption. It has been shown that those who consume alcohol daily have a higher risk of breast cancer than those who do not. The risk increases with amount of alcohol consumed.
Alcohol’s heart benefits stop after that second drink. A third does more harm than good, actually raising triglyceride levels without reducing LDL cholesterol. The key, as with everything else in life, is moderation.

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