Are You Drinking Too Much? The Myth Of Moderation

Not long ago wine, or any form of alcohol, was considered a preventative beverage. Before we had sanitary drinking water, wine was the safest bet in town. Good mothers ensured their children enjoyed a morning cup of some fermented beverage for calories as well as for prevention of infection. In the 1930’s my father contracted tuberculosis and he was prescribed a common Irish cure: a Guinness a day. Even the sage Benjamin Franklin believed that wine was a phenomenal preservative.

It was quite simple then, drinking was critical for survival. Today, it’s easier to solve a trigonometry problem in your head than to get a straight answer about how much we should be drinking each day. I’ve been conducting a very anecdotal survey over the past several months, asking friends what they have been told by doctors about drinking. One friend was counseled to limit her intake to three glasses a day. My doctor advised me to adhere to the 1-2-3 rule (one drink a day, no more that two at one time, no more than three days a week). Another friend remarked that her doctor just told her “in moderation”. Well, one man’s moderation is another man’s bacchanal.

“Bacchus” by Caravaggio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a wine writer I constantly try to puzzle out the meaning of moderation. Often I’ll open 10 to 15 bottles at once for comparative tastings. I pour, sip and spit each one out, (I think my children are starting to believe that this must be the way to enjoy wine: sip, then spit). I rarely indulge in a whole glass after this scenario because, despite all the spitting, we can be sure I’ve absorbed my share of alcohol.

Organizations nationwide offer their official guidelines on the matter, but I suffer from a well-oiled skepticism of “official” guidelines— lest ye forget—these well-intentioned organizations are the same ones that preached the gospel of margarine decades ago, telling us it was a more heart-healthy substance than butter. Then, they discovered the toxic effects of trans-fats; now the once touted margarine is a health-risk.

Presently (note I say presently, because we can all be sure the guidelines will change again) this is what we are told is safe, healthful consumption of alcohol:

The Department of Agriculture and Department of Health & Human Services: 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not to exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week.

American Heart Association: men should not exceed 2 units/day and women should not to exceed 1 unit/day.

These are just the American guidelines, the range in global opinion on the matter is staggering.

In the UK, their Department of Health states that men should limit consumption to no more than 3-4 units/day and women to no more than 2-3 units/day…but take note, their unit is only 8 grams, and an American unit is 14 grams. Overall though, the UK guidelines allow for a bit more flexibility. The French Ministry of Health and Sports suggests no more than 30 grams (roughly 3 drinks) per day for men and women alike.

We’d all probably really like Spanish doctors from the Basque region, where the Department of Health & Social Security counsels men and women to no more than 70 grams a day, or roughly seven drinks a day. Chicago-based attorney (and my sister), Alice Kelly, wryly noted when I shared the international disparities with her, “I just find it funny that drinking guidelines correlate to founding fathers. Basques have their bodega bags, the French enjoy “bon vivant”, Aussie convicts “party on mate”, while the prim Puritan Americans are only allowed one.”

Read all of the guidelines across the globe HERE. (created by the International Center for Alcohol Policies)

As if this isn’t all confusing enough, we have to consider the subjective factors floating out there:

  • Alcohol content (a big fat red wine weighing in at 15.5% alcohol is not the same as a light-bodied glass of Pinot Grigio at 12.5%, ditto an 8.9% Belgian beer and a 4% lager).
  • Portion size (you glass fillers know who you are—if your wine is lapping at the rim, you’re too full). Standard portions include: 12-ounces of beer, 8-ounces of malt liquor, 5-ounces of wine and 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor. During my research on this story I even came across a moderation glass.
  • Gender: Women have less body water than men and hence retain a higher blood-alcohol concentration than men from a single drink.
  • Food: an empty stomach speeds up alcohol absorption. Food slows absorption rates in men and women.

Let’s not forget the sketchy accuracy in alcohol content on wine labels. Wineries have flexibility of 1 to 1.5% when labeling for alcohol content. So a 15% wine might really be 16%, that’s a quantum leap when we are talking about two glasses (shoot, I can enjoy three glasses of Alsatian Riesling for roughly the same overall content). Although, to be fair, based on random industry testing it does appear that alcohol wine labeling has become more accurate. Read Dave McIntyre’s recent post about wine labeling here.

Here’s something else to bear in mind: if you never drink during the week, but like to celebrate on Friday with several rounds of cocktails or a bottle of wine, you are likely doing more harm to your body than if you enjoyed a single glass every night (with one night off). Weekend drinkers consider their consumption moderate but often unwittingly exceed the guidelines. Better to sip a glass every night with dinner than blow it out on Friday.

How much wine should you limit yourself to each day…should you even drink wine every day? The answers seem to change depending on who you ask. And, hey why should you care? Well, unfortunately, alcohol is one of those “fine line” substances; once you start to get out of balance, trouble awaits: alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and colon and cognitive impairment. And, there is genuine cause for anxiety about some emerging correlations between breast cancer and alcohol consumption. I’m not keen on being in that group of women that they study later and say, “Yep, this finally proves our theory, booze and boobs are a cancerous combination.”

This is where my frustration comes in—just after scaring the wits out of me, almost in the same breath, the guidelines state: moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age. What is a wine lover to do?

Wine, more so than other forms of alcohol, has added perks. Moderate consumption can yield positive effects on overall heart health. Some argue the polyphenols in wine can ward off bacterial infections. Of course there is my own personal favorite: Champagne and sparkling wine can improve memory and slow aging.

Wine is as old as dirt. Jesus and his disciples even enjoyed some at the Last Supper, and possibly that should be the guiding light (no pun intended dear reader): enjoy some, not a lot, every day with food.

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, said that about eating. We all spend far too much time obsessing about how to enjoy food and how to enjoy alcohol. Allow yourself indulgences; so what if every now and then you stay up late into the evening with friends and the wine keeps flowing, enjoy it, just don’t do it every night.

We all intuitively know the difference between moderate and not moderate. Alcohol, as anyone who has been affected by alcoholism will tell you, has a dark side; there should be no shame in your enjoyment. At its heart the libation is meant to be a shared experience, a tonic to celebrate food, gathering and togetherness…of course, in moderation.

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10 beers a day paves road to alcoholism

Q: I like beer. I like the way it calms me, and I like the taste. I am 38 and have been drinking about 10 beers a day for five years. I pace my drinking so that I am quite sober even with that amount of beer. I put in a day of hard, physical work with no problem. My wife says I am headed for an early death. Am I?

Q: I like beer. I like the way it calms me, and I like the taste. I am 38 and have been drinking about 10 beers a day for five years.

I pace my drinking so that I am quite sober even with that amount of beer. I put in a day of hard, physical work with no problem. My wife says I am headed for an early death. Am I?

A: A man should limit himself to two drinks a day; and a woman, to one. A drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5?ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. You are five times over the limit.

The amount of alcohol you consume daily should lead to liver complications in 10 or 15 years. Despite the fact that you function well, the average person’s body cannot handle the volume of alcohol you consume.

The odds are against your staying healthy. The fact that you tolerate so much alcohol is not a sign of your immunity to it; it’s a sign that you have developed a tolerance and that you are on the road to alcoholism.

Q: My uncle died of esophageal cancer at 83. What causes it? He died rapidly, only one month after the diagnosis was made. He had so many health problems that the doctor thought he couldn’t tolerate surgery. Could other treatments have worked?

A: Cigarette smoking and excessive drinking are risk factors for developing esophageal cancer. Other possible influences include eating too much red meat, a deficiency of zinc, gastroesophageal reflux disease and some viral infections. For many, a cause cannot be found.

An estimate of the time it takes esophageal cells to become cancerous is five years. In those years, few symptoms arise, so, by the time a person complains of pain or trouble swallowing, the cancer has advanced.

Surgery is the usual treatment. Radiation and chemotherapy make life more livable for those unable to undergo surgery.

Q: For many years, I have suffered from arthritis. My back bothers me the most.

I have a new doctor who thinks I have an arthritis called HLA-B27. I’ve never heard of it, nor have my friends. Just what is it?

A: HLA-B27 is human leukocyte antigen, B27. It’s like a house address on some body cells. It alerts the body to the origin of cells, distinguishing home-grown cells from outsiders.

HLA-B27 is found in many people who have a special kind of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis. It’s an arthritis that comes on earlier in life than the more-common arthritis illnesses, and it often targets the back.

Treatment often starts with anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin.

Dr. Donohue answers letters only in his North America Syndicate column but provides an order form of available health newsletters. Write him at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

There was a time—during college and afterward—when you’d drink on weekends (usually too much) and maybe one or two evenings during the week. But you also took nights off.

For a lot of men, that kind of “weekend warrior” drinking eventually mellows into a more consistent, every-evening pattern of consumption. You drink less but with more regularity, and you may notice skipping alcohol altogether isn’t as easy as it once was.

If that describes your drinking habit, should you be worried?

When it comes to alcohol, there are few hard-and-fast rules. But experts say a nightly drink or two isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When Nightly Drinking Is OK

With exceptions—and we’ll get to those in a minute—having a drink or two every night isn’t in itself a sign of abuse or an indication that you’re heading for trouble, says George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

“There’s very little data that having one or two drinks has any deleterious health effects in young men or leads to alcohol abuse later,” Koob says.

People in many traditional European cultures tend to drink wine with meals. And a New England Journal of Medicine study found drinking 7-plus glasses of wine each week is one component of the kind of healthy Mediterranean-style eating pattern that lowers a person’s risks for heart disease.

Koob says more research is needed to figure out if alcohol can be considered “healthy.” (For now, he wouldn’t advise a non-drinker or light drinker to up his intake.) But, he adds, there’s nothing to suggest a couple beers or some wine with dinner—or even a cocktail before—is going to grease your slide into mid-life alcoholism.

That said, to stay within the “low-risk” zone, you need to be sure your idea of a drink meets the NIAAA’s definitions. “If your glass of wine is a quart, or your cocktail contains three shots, that’s not one drink,” Koob says. (Seriously, check your pours. Research shows most men overserve themselves.)

Also, if you’re slurping four or more drinks a night, or if your total weekly intake exceeds 14 drinks, you’re at elevated risk for an abuse disorder. (The NIAAA offers this helpful questionnaire if you’re not sure how to assess your habit.)

Separating Dependence and Addiction

Even if you find yourself feeling irritable or antsy when you miss your evening drink, that’s not a sign that you’re “addicted,” Koob says.

“Dependence often goes hand in hand with addiction, but they’re not the same things,” he explains. “You can become dependent on almost any substance if it’s part of your daily rhythm, but that doesn’t mean you’re addicted.”

Say you have a beer or cocktail every night after work. Your body and brain are going to become accustomed to that evening ritual, and you may be irritable if you don’t have your hooch. But Koob points out the same would be true if you normally eat dinner at seven but pushed your meal to later in the evening.

When it comes to sleep, eating, and any kind of substance, “anything that disrupts your normal routine is going to put you on edge, but that’s not an indication you have a use disorder,” he adds.

When You Should Worry

If you have a family history of alcoholism, and especially if one or both of your parents has alcohol abuse issues, you need to be wary of booze, and you’re better off restricting your intake, Koob says.

Also, if you’re practically shotgunning that first beer of the day, or you pound your evening cocktail in one or two slugs, that’s more indicative of binge drinking than of a low-risk drinking pattern, he explains.

The same goes if you’re combining a few weeknights of light drinking with weekends of hard partying.

“Generally, we define binge drinking for men as five drinks in a two-hour period,” he says. If that describes your Friday and Saturday nights, AND you’re knocking back a couple drinks every night during the week, you’re firmly in the danger zone.

Other Times to Cut Back

It’s a cliché that men drink when times are tough. But that kind of drinking is far from harmless.

If you use alcohol to cope, a significant life event like a lost job or having a kid could quickly escalate your drinking into the danger zone, says Paul Lavella Jr., a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor at New Jersey- and Massachusetts-based Summit Behavioral Health.

“If one or two drinks is your baseline, but you drink more when you’ve had a rough day or week, that’s something that could become a significant problem when life changes lead to stress,” he explains.

If you have nights when you struggle to control your intake, that’s also a red flag.

“Maybe you went to a party with the intention of staying a few hours and having a few drinks, and then driving home,” Lavella says. “If you end up staying all night and drinking so much that you can’t drive, that’s an example of losing control of a drinking situation where you went in with a plan.”

If you notice that happening regularly, you need to reassess your drinking.

The same is true if you notice your habit is gaining steam. If you used to have a single beer with dinner, but now you’re having a cocktail before you eat and a couple glasses of wine with your food, that’s a problem.

Finally and most importantly, any indication that your social, personal, or professional life is suffering due to alcohol is a sign that you need to make some changes, Lavella says. That’s true regardless of how much you drink.

“There are a lot of genetic and individual factors that change how you feel after a drink,” he says. “But if alcohol is negatively impacting your life or if you’re concerned you may have a problem, you need to take steps to address that.”

Markham Heid Markham Heid is an experienced health reporter and writer, has contributed to outlets like TIME, Men’s Health, and Everyday Health, and has received reporting awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Maryland, Delaware, and D.C.

Sure, you probably have beer to thank for helping you meet your girlfriend, spurring some of your greatest stories, and bringing out your worst dance moves. But it turns out there are tons of other awesome, scientifically proven reasons to love a good brew.

Beer could safeguard your heart, boost your immunity, protect your bones, and more. Ready, set, drink up.

Related Video:

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BEER BENEFIT #1: PROTECT YOUR HEART.

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Wine usually gets all the credit as the booze that helps cut back your cardiovascular disease risk, but beer may be just as heart-healthy of a beverage.

Italian researchers found that moderate beer drinkers had a 42 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to non-drinkers. For maximum protection, keep your consumption to one pint—at around 5 percent alcohol by volume—a day, the researchers say. Toast to your health with one of these summer brews.

BEER BENEFIT #2: THINK LIKE A GENIUS.

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Knocking back a beer or two won’t make you smarter, but it could boost your creativity, according to a study in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

When 40 men watched a movie while completing verbal puzzles, beer-buzzed guys with a blood alcohol content of .075 solved the problems a few seconds faster than their sober counterparts.

Related: 8 Surprising Things That Prove You’re Super Smart

BEER BENEFIT #3: PREVENT TYPE 2 DIABETES.

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Dutch researchers analyzed 38,000 male health professionals and found that when men who weren’t big boozers began drinking moderately over 4 years, they were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Increased alcohol consumption over time didn’t lower the risk in men who already had a couple drinks a day, so moderation is the key word here.

Stick to a beer or two at happy hour tonight.

BEER BENEFIT #4: BE KIND TO YOUR KIDNEYS.

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Cheers to never having to pass a kidney stone again—or if you’re lucky, ever. Researchers in Finland found that each bottle of beer a man drinks daily lowers his risk of developing kidney stones by 40 percent.

The researchers can’t exactly explain the link, but speculate that a high fluid intake not only makes for an excessive number of trips to the bathroom, but could also keep kidneys functioning properly. Additionally, the researchers say the hops in beer may be responsible for the correlation, helping to slow the release of calcium from bone—which could get reabsorbed by the kidneys as painful stones.

BEER BENEFIT #5: RECOVER FASTER.

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Move over, Gatorade—a heady brew could also aid in workout recovery, according to a Spanish study. Researchers asked students to exercise until their body temperature reached 104 degrees, and then had them rehydrate with beer or water. As it turns out, people who had a post-workout pint were slightly more hydrated than those who had H2O.

BEER BENEFIT #5: GET AN INSTANT CONFIDENCE BOOST.

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Beer goggles? Try beer mirror. British researchers found the more drinks people consumed, the more attractive they found themselves.

In a second study, the researchers asked participants who had consumed either a real or fake alcoholic drink to give a speech. When asked to evaluate how good-looking, smart, and funny they felt they were during their talk, people who thought they imbibed gave themselves more positive self-evaluations—regardless of whether or not they were actually buzzed.

Want to catch a woman’s eye? These are the types of men women find most attractive.

BEER BENEFIT #7: SEE CLEARER.

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A Guinness a day could keep the eye doctor away. Canadian researchers found that one daily beer—especially a lager or stout—increases antioxidant activity that can stop cataracts from forming in the eyes.

The kicker: The scientists found an opposite effect in participants who had three or more drinks a day. Here are six ways you can protect your eyesight today.

BEER BENEFIT #8: LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE.

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High blood pressure can be responsible for a range of health problems, but beer can lower your risk for hypertension, research suggests.

In one study, Harvard researchers found that moderate beer drinkers are less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who sip wine or cocktails.

BEER BENEFIT #9: FIGHT OFF INFECTION.

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Having one or two drinks a day might boost your immune system and fight infections, according to an Oregon Health & Science University study.

Scientists vaccinated monkeys against smallpox, then gave some of the primates access to alcohol while others could drink sugar water. The monkeys who drank moderately had better vaccine responses than those who consumed the sweet stuff.

But the animals that drank heavily—you may now imagine a totally tanked chimp—had less of a response to the vaccine than those who kept their habit under control.

Related: 7 Glorious Times Scientists Got Animals Drunk

BEER BENEFIT #10: PREVENT A FRACTURE.

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Nasty breaks from drunken debauchery aside, a couple beers a day could actually strengthen your bones, according to a study at Tufts University.

Guys who stuck to one or two brews had up to 4.5 percent greater bone density than non-drinkers—but more than two beers was associated with up to 5.2 percent lower density, according to the study.

10 reasons beer is not bad for you

Here are 10 reasons why beer is not really bad for you, if had in moderation. Please note, this is not an encouragement to imbibe, especially if you are a teetotaler or have a medical condition
1. Beer drinkers live longer
Moderate drinking is good for you, and beer is good for moderate drinking. Everyone knows that if you drink too much, it’s not good for you. Let’s not pull punches: If you’re a drunk, you run into things, you drive into things, you get esophageal cancer, you get cirrhosis and other nasty conditions. But more and more medical research indicates that if you don’t drink at all, that’s not good for you either. According to numerous independent studies, moderate drinkers live longer and better than drunks or teetotalers. Beer is perfect for moderate drinking because of its lower alcohol content and larger volume compared with wine or spirits. And as that old radical Thomas Jefferson said, “Beer, if drank with moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit, and promotes health.” And he didn’t need a scientific study to tell him that.
2. Beer is all-natural Some know-it-alls will tell you that beer is loaded with additives and preservatives. The truth is that beer is as all-natural as orange juice or milk (maybe even more so – some of those milk & OJ labels will surprise you). Beer doesn’t need preservatives because it has alcohol and hops, both of which are natural preservatives. Beer is only “processed” in the sense that bread is: It is cooked and fermented, then filtered and packaged. The same can be said for Heineken.
3. Beer is low in calories, low in carbohydrates and has no fat or cholesterol
For a completely natural beverage, beer offers serious low-calorie options. Twelve ounces of Guinness has the same number of calories as 12 ounces of skim milk: about 125. That’s less than orange juice (150 calories), which is about the same as your standard, “full-calorie” beer. If beer were your only source of nutrition, you’d have to drink one every waking hour just to reach your recommended daily allowance of calories (2,000 to 2,500). And nobody’s recommending you drink that many. The only natural drinks with fewer calories than beer are plain tea, black coffee and water. Surely, beer is loaded with those fattening carbohydrates, right? Wrong again. The average beer has about 12 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving. The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance is 300 grams of carbohydrates in a standard 2,000-calorie diet. In other words, you would need to drink an entire 24-pack case of beer – and then reach into a second case – simply to reach the government’s recommended daily allotment of carbohydrates. You’re better off munching an apple or drinking some soda pop if you want to carbo-load. Each has about 35 to 40 grams of carbs – three times the number found in a beer. Also, beer has no fat or cholesterol.
4. Beer improves your cholesterol
Beer not only has no cholesterol, it can actually improve the cholesterol in your body. In fact, drinking beer regularly and moderately will tilt your HDL/LDL cholesterol ratios the right way. You’ve got two kinds of cholesterol in your system: HDL, the “good” cholesterol that armor-plates your veins and keeps things flowing, and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol that builds up in your veins like sludge in your bathtub drain. Beer power-flushes the system and keeps the HDL levels up. According to some studies, as little as one beer a day can boost your HDL by up to 4 per cent.
5. Beer helps you chill
The social aspects of moderate drinking are solidly beneficial to your health. In other words, to get out every now and then and relax with your buddies over a couple of beers.
6. Beer has plenty o’ B vitamins
Beer, especially unfiltered or lightly filtered beer, turns out to be quite nutritious, despite the years of suppression of those facts by various anti-alcohol groups. Beer has high levels of B vitamins, particularly folic acid, which is believed to help prevent heart attacks. Beer also has soluble fiber, good for keeping you regular, which in turn reduces the likelihood that your system will absorb unhealthy junk like fat. Beer also boasts significant levels of magnesium and potassium, in case you were planning on metal-plating your gut.
7. Beer is safer than water
If you’re someplace where you are advised not to drink the water, the local beer is always a safer bet. It’s even safer than the local bottled water. Beer is boiled in the brewing process and is kept clean afterwards right through the bottle being capped and sealed, because if it isn’t, it goes bad in obvious ways that make it impossible to sell. Even if it does go bad, though, there are no life-threatening bacteria bacteria (pathogens) that can live in beer. So drink up – even bad beer is safer than water.
8. Beer prevents heart attacks
If you want to get a bit more cutting-edge than vitamins, beer has other goodies for you. You’ve heard of the French Paradox, how the French eat their beautiful high-fat diet and drink their beautiful high-booze diet and smoke their nasty goat-hair cigarettes, but have rates of heart disease that are about one-third that of the rest of the world? It’s been credited to red wine and the antioxidants it contains. Hey, guess what else has lots of antioxidants, as many as red wine? Dark beer! According to the American Heart Association, “there is no clear evidence that wine is more beneficial than other forms of alcoholic drink.” One study profiled in the British Medical Journal in 1999 said that the moderate consumption of three drinks a day could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 24.7 per cent.
9. Beer fights cancer
The most amazing beer and health connection is something called xanthohumol, a flavonoid found only in hops. Xanthohumol is a potent antioxidant that inhibits cancer-causing enzymes, “much more potent than the major component in soy,” according Dr. Cristobal Miranda of the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University. This xanthohumol stuff is so good for you that the Germans have actually brewed a beer with extra levels of it.
10. Beer does not give you a beer belly
A study done by researchers at the University College of London and the Institut Klinické a Experimentální Medicíny in Prague in 2003 showed no connection between the amount of beer people drank and the size of their overhang. “There is a common notion that beer drinkers are, on average, more ‘obese’ than either non-drinkers or drinkers of wine or spirits,” the researchers said. But they found that “the association between beer and obesity, if it exists, is probably weak.” Most studies have found that people who drink beer regularly (and moderately) not only don’t develop beer bellies – they weigh less than non-drinkers. Beer can boost your metabolism, keep your body from absorbing fat and otherwise make you a healthier, less disgusting slob. Just drink it in moderation, as part of an otherwise healthy diet.
So that’s it. Drink beer. You’ll live longer and be happier. You won’t get fat. In fact, you may weigh less. You’ll boost your metabolism, improve your health and reduce your risk of clogged arteries, heart attack and cancer. What more could you want?
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Sometimes there’s nothing better than cracking open a cold one after a long day.

We tend to view beer as a guilty pleasure — maybe because we associate all those suds with a beer gut and inevitable weight gain. But you’ll be happy to hear that, when consumed in moderation (we repeat, moderation), the benefits of a pint of beer go may far beyond helping you wind down after a stressful week.

What exactly constitutes “drinking in moderation,” anyway? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol consumption as having one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. While research does show there is room for imbibing as part of a balanced, healthy diet, they also advise not to start drinking if you currently abstain.

But if you do keep a six-pack in the fridge, pop one open and say “cheers” to these potential health benefits.

It contributes to our daily nutrient intake

Many experts agree that beer is more like a food than a beverage — after all, it is referred to as liquid bread. If you’ve ever sipped a pint of Guinness, you know exactly what they mean. While that does mean you need to be mindful of how many calories you’re sipping in each glass, it also means the liquid contains some good-for-you nutrients.

According to one study, “beer contains more protein and B vitamins than wine. The antioxidant content of beer is equivalent to that of wine, but the specific antioxidants are different because the barley and hops used in the production of beer contain flavonoids different from those in the grapes used in the production of wine.”

Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, also claims that beer trumps wine when it comes to B vitamins, phosphorus, folate and niacin. Beer also has significant protein and some fiber. And it is one of a few significant dietary sources of silicon, which research shows can help prevent osteoporosis. Preliminary research by Bamforth also suggests that beer may contain prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in our gut.

It may lower your risk of diabetes

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A study published in the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes found that people who drink 3 to 4 times per week were less likely to develop diabetes than those who never drink. And when compared to those who didn’t drink beer, men who enjoyed between one and six beers per week had a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes.

How Beer Can Benefit Your Health

Aug. 4, 201701:03

It may make your heart healthier

Wine tends to be the choice on the bar menu associated with a healthy heart. But there’s reason to love beer for the same reason. A preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2016 followed 80,000 participants for six years and found that moderate drinkers had the slowest decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, levels — and in turn, a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research also shows that of men who have already suffered a heart attack, those that drank beer moderately were 42 percent less likely to die of heart disease.

It may build stronger bones

Move over milk — could there be a new bone-building beverage in the fridge? A review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that moderate beer consumption increased bone density in men. No, it’s not the buzz that’s helping those bones grow: it may be the silicon found in your pint, which is an essential mineral for bone formation.

It may boost brain power

Another benefit of having silicon on the ingredients list? It helps protect your brain from compounds thought to eventually cause cognitive diseases. Which may be why researchers at Loyola University in Chicago found that moderate beer drinkers are 23 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who don’t drink beer. Another explanation: Beer is shown to raise good cholesterol which improves blood flow to the brain.

And ordering a few pints may give you a boost at trivia night. According to one study, people with a slight beer buzz solved puzzles faster than their sober counterparts. In fact, alcohol made subjects almost 30 percent more likely to find the unexpected solution.

It cleans your teeth

A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that beer can keep bacteria from forming — and growing — on your teeth. The researchers tested the effects of beer extracts on the bacteria that form biofilm and promote tooth decay and gum disease, and found that even the weakest extract of beer tested blocked the activity of bacteria. Beer was also one of the best extracts for blocking communication between bacteria, which slows their growth. Good old Guinness was the beer they used in testing — another reason to channel your inner Irishman at the bar.

It may reduce inflammation

Next time your spouse asks why you’re still at the bar, tell them you’re fighting inflammation.

Inflammation in the body is the underlying cause behind many diseases, and according to a study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, hops (an essential ingredient in beer) has anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers compared the anti-inflammatory effect of different hops and found that the consumption of hops in beer form interfered with inflammation causing compounds.

It may help you live longer

A study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas found that people who drink moderately live longer than those who don’t. But don’t use it as a license to binge drink this weekend because heavy alcohol use can negatively impact your health. The jury is still out, but studies suggest that a healthy amount of beer can add years to your life, given that it positively impacts cholesterol levels, lowers your risk of diabetes and strengthens your heart.

Regardless of the reason why, we’ll take it as a cue to crack open a cold one tonight.

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There may only be one National Beer Day (April 7), but don’t let that keep you from celebrating this beverage year-round.

Think of all the reasons we ride for beer. There’s the obvious—after a hard ride, it tastes like the liquid equivalent of a high-five—and the less proven—it functions as a PED for previously untested dance moves. But those aren’t the only justifications for ending your group ride at the nearest craft brewery. Here’s our list of nine completely defensible reasons to (responsibly) enjoy this treat.

RELATED: Science Says Your Post-Ride Beer Is A-Okay

Beer can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
According to Harvard University, more than 100 studies show an inverse association between moderate drinking and risk of heart attack or death from cardiovascular disease. Across all the studies, a 25- to 40-percent reduction in risk has been found.

Beer can lower your risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
In a meta-analysis of 15 studies on moderate alcohol consumption and Type 2 Diabetes risk, the American Diabetes Association found “a U-shaped relationship with a highly significant ∼30-percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in alcohol consumers of 6 to 48 g/day compared with heavier consumers or abstainers.” It’s important to note that a standard 12-ounce beer contains about 14 grams of alcohol—so drink responsibly if you want these health benefits.

Beer can increase your bone density.
Studies have found that beers—particularly darker, hoppier ales—have a high amount of silicon, which contributes to bone and connective-tissue health. The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture reports that this suggests a moderate intake helps fight osteoporosis.

Beer can prevent Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Drinking in moderation can actually help you stay at the top of your mental game. Researchers at Lanzhou University recently found that a compound found in beer hops, xanthohumol, can guard against oxidative stress and might fight the onset of dementia or cognitive decline.

RELATED: 10 Great Ways to Use Leftover Beer

Beer can reduce your cholesterol.
Good news: A study recently found that moderate beer consumption can increase HDL, or healthy cholesterol, even more markedly for women. The American Heart Association recommends you don’t get carried away, though, and recommends no more than one drink per day for women and one to two for men.

Beer can prevent kidney stones.
A toast to never finding out how miserable it feels to pass a kidney stone! Beer intake has been shown to have an inverse relationship with this painful ailment, with each bottle consumed per day estimated to reduce risk by 40 percent.

Beer can support bike advocacy.
Sometimes supporting breweries not only means supporting local business that can make a place more livable and rideable, but also directly supporting bikes. Plenty of beer brands, like New Belgium, Flying Bison Beer Co., and Squatters, support bike advocacy organizations and events for cyclists. Turns out beer and bikes just go well together.

Beer might be able to fight cancer.
Researchers in Germany discovered that the xanthohumol in beer hops—the same stuff that helps prevent dementia— can block excessive testosterone and estrogen and thus reduce the chance of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. They’re further studying xanthohumol for potential use as a cancer-fighting drug, but in the meantime you can get your dose from a nice IPA.

Beer is a great post-ride reward!
In the last 10 miles of a hard grind, it’s nice to have a post-ride beer to fantasize about for added cycling motivation. You can end your ride at the local brewery with your crew and enjoy the social lubrication and relaxation benefits beer can offer—or you can ride straight home and indulge in one of life’s supreme pleasures, the shower beer. Either way, nothing will taste better when you’re tired and sweaty.

Drinking 7 beers a day

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