As we begin to approach the festive season, there is a good chance that our average weekly alcohol consumption is going to increase. While it has been established that a moderate intake of alcohol is generally beneficial for health, drinking large amounts of alcohol regularly and/or binge drinking can have detrimental affects to both our mental and physical health.
The main benefit of drinking in moderation is improved cardiovascular health - with a lower risk for heart attack and stroke. Reduced risk of age-related dementia has also been noted in some studies. Red wine is thought to be particularly beneficial as it contains flavonoids (members of a group of plant compounds called polyphenols) which are important antioxidants. Research suggests that polyphenols can help protect against atherosclerosis (fatty degeneration of the arterial wall) and thrombosis (arterial blockage).
However, when it comes to booze, there can be too much of a good thing! And unfortunately, it doesn’t work by saving all your alcohol allowance for a special occasion – little and often is the guidance when it comes to enjoying a tipple. A little alcohol each day is beneficial, but the same total amount drunk in one or two hits over a weekend is detrimental to health. The worst cardiovascular profiles are seen in those who abstain completely, as well as in those who binge drink.
The guidelines for alcohol are no one should have more than 14 units in a week, and this should be split over several days. For example, a bottle of wine (12%) is 10 units, and an average can of beer / cider is 2 units.
Of course, there are many other ways to support heart health, from eating fruits and vegetables (particularly delicious berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries – all high in polyphenols), consuming fibre from wholegrains and oats, as well as nuts such as pecans and hazelnuts - to enjoying oily fish or taking omega-3 supplements.
So, while its time to ‘eat, drink & be merry’ – please do so in moderation for the sake of your heart and overall health.