Alcohol, A Double Edged Sword

There has been a spate of research that encourages moderate alcohol drinking.  But, these studies do not provide us with the adverse effects of alcoholism. It is important to know the bad side effects of a drug before we use it for the beneficial effects.

"Moderate alcohol consumption may have important health benefits in terms of reducing the risk of ischemic stroke," concludes a team of researchers at Columbia University in New York City.  Previous studies have suggested that alcohol protects against heart disease by helping to raise blood levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. However, the investigators found NO SUCH ASSOCIATION IN THEIR STUDY. But the authors also note that "heavy drinking (five or more drinks per day) was associated with (a 37%) increased risk of stroke." And they say the consumption of seven or more drinks per day pushed stroke risk to a level more than triple that of abstainers.

Japanese team led by Sakae Arimoto-Kobayashi of Okayama University in Tsushima,  in January issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that alcohol itself, however, was not the key. Instead, they speculated, the plant-derived hops that give beer its bitterness could be responsible. In the experiments, extractions of hops inhibited the effects of one HA type.

Gregory N. Larkin, M.D., Director of Corporate Health Services, Eli Lilly and Company has the following advice for alcoholics:

Alcohol has been a societal libation for centuries rendering both benefits and trauma to those who drink it. Most recently, a major study concluded that “moderate” alcohol usage may reduce the incidence of strokes. Most studies refer to number of drinks per day. The definition of what constitutes a “drink” is beer = 12 ozs., wine = 5 ozs., 80 proof distilled spirits =1.5 ozs.

Following are some characteristics and guidelines regarding alcohol benefits and effects:

BENEFITS: May reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, as well as the risk of strokes.
ADVERSE EFFECTS: The risks of liver damage (cirrhosis), pancreatitis and certain types of cancers (mouth, liver, throat, larynx and the esophagus). Long-term heavy consumption can also cause loss of appetite, vitamin deficiencies, stomach problems, skin problems, sexual impotence, obesity, and heart, central-nervous-system and psychological disorders. Heavy drinking also increases death from automobile and recreational accidents, harmful fetal development, and the incidence of homicide and suicide.

When to abstain from drinking alcohol:

Have a possible problem with alcohol usage?  Discuss your concern with your doctor and get help from support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. Here are some web sites that might be helpful:
Alcoholics Anonymous
Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
National Institute of  Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Economic Costs

Sreenivasarao Vepachedu

Back to The Telangana Science Journal
Back to Vepachedu Home Page