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The Surprising, Science-Backed Benefits of Having a Drink

posted: 12/21/15
by: Courtney Reimer
group of friends toasting with drinks
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We were pretty excited to learn recently that champagne may be good for your health, so this news is also welcome -- especially at the time of year when toasting seems to happen at every meal and party. A new mega-analysis by The New York Times shows that drinking (in moderation) may not only not be bad for you, but could also be preventative for certain illnesses.

Of course the key with this, as with so many things, is the "in moderation" part, but the things that stood out most to us in this report were:

  • Moderate drinking seems to be associated with a decreased risk of death overall.

  • Those who consumed alcohol at least once a week had significantly better cognitive function in middle age than those who did not drink at all.

  • Moderate drinking was associated with up to 56 percent lower rates of diabetes compared with nondrinkers. Heavy drinkers, though, had an increased incidence of diabetes.

  • 63 controlled trials of wine, beer and spirits, and found that all of those beverages increased levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

So, for the most part, one drink a day can actually help prevent some diseases, and is unlikely to exacerbate your vulnerability to to chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The one major "watch out" appears to be for breast cancer. According to the research analysis, "the overall consensus is that each additional drink per day increases the relative risk...by a statistically significant, but small, 2 percent."

There are certainly other caveats and qualifications to consider with this analysis. Most notably, if you have a history of alcohol abuse or are pregnant, it's probably best to abstain altogether (though science still seems torn on the latter as an absolute rule).