Can you consume all alcohol types?
Experts are mixed on the benefits of alcohol, but they are clear on the harm of too much drinking. Binge drinking can increase the risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Experts also agree that alcohol is a proven cause of several kinds of cancer, including breast and liver cancer.
“Alcohol is associated with dementia. Even moderate intake can affect brain dementia,” said Kenechukwu Mazue, a nuclear cardiology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “There’s really no safe level.”
While Mazue has seen studies that suggest that wine may have health benefits, he counsels patients to stay within limits set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“For those who don’t drink, I don’t ask them to start” because of the potential for alcohol dependency.
Shivendra Shukla, PhD, the Margaret Proctor Mulligan Professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, warns even a small amount of alcohol can be damaging.
Shukla has researched binge drinking and chronic drinking over the last 25 years.
“Alcoholic consumption in any amount is bad,” Shukla said. Alcohol has a domino effect. Alcohol is a very mysterious chemical. Once in the body, it has multiple pathways by which it can exert damaging effects. It’s just like a cluster bomb. The consequences can be very injurious.”
A different view for alcohol consumption
Dr. Jeanette Tetrault, a professor of medicine and addiction specialist at the Yale School of Medicine, takes a more measured view of alcohol consumption.
“We know that there are negative health effects related to alcohol consumption,” she said. “We know there are situations where any drinking can have negative health effects, including for populations such as pregnant women, adolescents. Our messaging as providers needs to be to look at individual circumstances and assess the risk and health effects of individuals. Abstinence-only does not work. We’ve seen public health campaigns like that fail in the past.”
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