How do the effects of alcohol impact antiaging? Is moderate drinking ok? Is it possible to make up for alcohol abuse effects earlier in life? Let’s examine what alcohol effects do your body over time.
Effects of Alcohol
Everybody knows that alcohol has powerful effects on the body and brain. This isn’t rocket science. But the impact of alcohol on your health and longevity is an individual thing. It is dependent of your body chemistry and your level of consumption.
Alcohol is a carbohydrate, and alcoholic beverages are essentially “refined carbohydrates.” Sound familiar? Remember that refined carbohydrates are at the core of most chronic disease related to what we eat and drink.
Alcohol is also toxin, despite what you have heard about wine drinking being beneficial. This doesn’t mean that it’s deadly poison in even small doses, but that it acts as a toxic substance in your body, and should not be overdone.
I’m not going to bore you with long-winded chemical explanations about the effects of alcohol. Rather let me focus on several important questions about alcohol effects in relation to your antiaging efforts.
What Does Alcohol Do?
When alcohol gets into your bloodstream, it also enters the brain through something called the “blood brain barrier.” This keeps out a lot of toxins from entering the brain, but unfortunately alcohol isn’t one of them.
When it is metabolized (detoxified) by the liver, it forms byproducts such as acetaldehyde, which is even more toxic than alcohol. It is then converted to acetate, then eventually to co2 and water.
This conversion creates two other highly toxic chemicals called 1-hydroxyethyl and diacetyl, which generate oxidative stress, that damages cells and their DNA. This DNA damage is what can eventually lead to the formation of cancers.
These toxic byproducts of metabolization are in large part responsible for the bad effects of alcohol, and become more of a problem as you age. Your body is not as resilient when older and so alcohol effects take much more of a toll than they do on younger people.
Alcohol is harder for women to metabolize and takes longer as well, and not surprisingly it takes more of a toll on women’s health than men. Below is a list of health problems related to the effects of alcohol on the body, caused by over consumption of alcohol.
I am not saying that light or moderate drinking will absolutely cause these problems. These are alcohol abuse effects. However the term “moderation” is subject to each person’s interpretation of just what moderation means.
Do The Effects of Alcohol Help or Hurt
In the recent past, the medical community has suggested that light to moderate drinking can have protective effects on your cardiovascular system. This may seem contradictory given the problems listed above.
Common sense would suggest that the mechanism by which alcohol may have a modest “protective” effect on your cardiovascular system could just as easily be replicated by good nutrition and exercise.
Resveratrol – the substance in red wine that is cardio-protective is available in supplement form. The increase in HDL levels that alcohol in moderation seems to result in can also be had by proper cardiovascular exercise and dietary changes.
What about the “French Paradox?” French people consume more saturated fat than we do in the U.S. but have lower rates of heart disease. Is it the effects of alcohol from wine drinking? Perhaps, but they also eat far less processed food, and get more exercise than we do. So there are many factors at work that contribute to their longevity.
Light drinking may have some positive benefit, however you should not take this to mean that drinking alcohol in excess is a health promoting activity!
You can be VERY healthy without drinking alcohol, but if you must indulge, drinking likely will not cause significant health risks if it is not overdone.
How Much is Too Much
Since the effects of alcohol are so individual, it’s really hard to set absolute rules for which levels are ok and which are overkill (an appropriate term in some respects). Anecdotally many people are in the habit of having one drink per day.
Please note: Women who are pregnant should never consume alcohol in any amount, as there is no safe level for a developing fetus
Some of these people are long lived and attribute (perhaps mistakenly – perhaps not) their consumption of alcohol for that longevity. Information is provided on alcohol consumption guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
To Sum Up…
Drinking is a custom as old as humanity itself. It is an accepted part of life in many cultures and on many occasions. The purpose of an antiaging program is to increase the quality of life, not remove all the enjoyments and occasional indulgences.
Use common sense and discretion. Getting severely intoxicated is just plain unhealthy and can be dangerous in many circumstances. Alcohol abuse effects are serious enough to suggest heavy drinking should absolutely be avoided!
Heavy drinking will age you by increasing your weight, and will cause wrinkles to appear prematurely. Heavy drinkers who cannot control their alcohol intake may need alcoholism rehabilitation to improve their chances of living to a ripe old age and avoiding the toll that years of heavy drinking can do to a body.
The effects of alcohol in moderation suggest that if you consume alcohol, make it an occasional enjoyable treat, and not a constant overindulgence.
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