While drinking alcohol moderately comes with both risks and possible benefits, a person should exercise caution. The risks of drinking alcohol excessively may outweigh any possible benefits.
This article will explore drinking habits, the potential health benefits of drinking in moderation, the risks, and other effects of alcohol on the body. We will also look at ways to reduce risks and alcohol consumption.
According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as of 2019, 85.6% of people over age 18 in the United States reported that they had drunk alcohol at some point in life.
Meanwhile, 54.9% of people reported that they had consumed alcohol in the past month.
Drinking in moderation
According to the
One drink is
- a bottle of regular beer — 12 ounces (oz)
- a glass of wine — 5 oz
- a shot of liquor such as vodka — 1.5 oz
Moderate alcohol consumption has some potential benefits for the body, but these do not outweigh the risks of alcohol consumption.
People should consult a doctor to discuss ways to reduce the risk and treat the effects of certain health conditions.
Alcohol may offer protective effects for certain body systems and may reduce the risk of developing some health conditions, including the following.
According to a
Fermented alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, contain polyphenols such as resveratrol.
Polyphenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and experts associate these with a decrease in the incidence of some diseases, including cardiovascular diseases.
While the 2020 review suggests that consuming small amounts of alcohol may carry some benefit, consuming large amounts, even occasionally, remains detrimental.
To better reflect short-term and habitual alcohol consumption and its effects, future studies need to use more reliable measurements of alcohol exposure rather than self-reported intake.
A 2017 study also found an association between moderate alcohol consumption and a lower incidence of heart failure.
Consuming alcohol in excess may cause other heart-related conditions, such as cardiomyopathy — damage to the heart muscle — or arrhythmias, which are abnormal heart rhythms. These conditions may also increase the risk of a stroke.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes causes the body’s cells to take in less glucose, or sugar, from the blood as a result of insulin resistance. When the body’s cells do not respond to insulin and take up glucose, a person will have
According to the American Diabetes Association, moderate alcohol consumption may improve blood glucose management and sensitivity to insulin.
A 2015 review associates moderate alcohol consumption with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the authors state that moderate alcohol consumption may improve insulin sensitivity for some people but not for all.
The researchers also suggest that alcohol may reduce hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) concentrations, or blood glucose levels. A person with diabetes is likely to have an HbA1c level of
Overall, the studies had small sample sizes and short durations. More research is necessary to explore any further associations across bigger samples and longer time periods.
Excess alcohol intake has an association with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Drinking alcohol can also reduce the body’s ability to recover when blood sugar levels drop. A person with diabetes should discuss with their doctor any effects that alcohol may have on their condition or medications.
However, the same analysis states that excessive drinking — 38 grams or more per day — may increase the risk of developing dementia.
While moderate alcohol consumption may have some potential benefits, the negative effects of long-term or excessive alcohol drinking outweigh these benefits.
According to SAMHSA, in 2019, 25.8% of adults over age 18 reported that they had consumed alcohol excessively in the past month.
Heavy drinking has an association with various health issues, such as:
- alcohol poisoning
- various cancer types, including cancer of the:
- memory and learning difficulties
Long-term heavy alcohol drinking has an association with an
- atrial fibrillation
liver disease and digestive issues immune system problems depression and anxiety
Long-term alcohol drinking may also lead to
Alcohol can also affect other parts of the body in both the short and the long term.
Alcohol has a diuretic effect on the body. This means that it
- dry skin and lips
- sunken eyes
- poor skin elasticity
- blue lips
Alcohol can also cause
Chronic overconsumption of alcohol may
- yellowing of the skin, or jaundice
- an increased risk of skin cancer and skin infections
- itchy skin
Learn more about the effects of alcohol on the skin.
Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol can have a negative impact on the hair.
Heavy alcohol drinking can
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, people may experience hair loss if they do not consume enough of nutrients such as:
A person can choose
People can also reduce their risk of developing certain health conditions by making other lifestyle changes. For example, people can consume antioxidants through foods and nutrients
- vegetables and fruits
- vitamin C and vitamin E
- carotenoids such as:
- beta carotene
To reduce health risks on any single occasion, a person may try:
- limiting drinks
- drinking more slowly
- consuming food while drinking
- alternating alcoholic drinks with water or other nonalcoholic drinks
Drinking in moderation may have some protective effects for the cardiovascular system. It may also increase insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of dementia.
However, the potential benefits do not outweigh the risks of alcohol consumption. Consuming alcohol can increase a person’s risk of developing other health conditions, such as cancer. It can also negatively affect the skin, hair, and teeth.
People can reduce their risk of certain conditions by modifying their diet and changing their drinking habits.