Health Benefits of Alcohol Explained by New Study

Various studies have concluded that moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages may improve health and prolong life. However, nobody really knows why this may be true or what doses of alcohol may prevent disease. One possible explanation is given by a study from The University of Sydney in Australia that shows alcoholic beverages help to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high after meals (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007). This means that alcohol could help to prevent the damage caused by high blood sugar levels.

When food reaches the stomach, the pyloric valve closes and does not allow food to enter the intestines until it is turned into a soupy liquid. Anything that keeps food in the stomach longer will help to lower the rise in blood sugar levels. Foods that cause the highest rise in blood sugar include those made with flour or sugar, but when these foods are eaten with fatty foods, they are held in the stomach longer so the rise in blood sugar is blunted. This study shows that alcohol delays the rise in blood sugar in the same way, lowering rise in blood sugar following eating by 16 to 37 percent. This could be the mechanism by which moderate alcohol consumption promotes health.

However, many of the studies proclaiming the health benefits of alcohol have a major flaw. Researchers from the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 54 studies and found that only seven corrected their non-drinking population for people who had to stop drinking for health reasons (Addiction Research and Theory, April 2006).

When you do an epidemiological study to see if alcohol prevents disease, you compare people who drink and those who do not drink. However, many people do not drink because their doctors have told them they have high blood pressure, liver, heart or kidney disease, alcoholism, stomach ulcers, or other major health problems. The Canadian researchers re-analyzed 47 studies that associated wine or other alcohol with a longer life and decreased risk for heart attacks. When the studies were corrected to remove the people who had been ordered to stop drinking for health reasons, they found no difference in death rate between moderate drinkers and those who do not drink at all. It is probably safe to take up to two drinks a day, but be skeptical of studies that say alcohol will prolong your life. Weekly eZine


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