According to Australian guidelines, we are recommended no more than two standard drinks per day, with two alcohol-free days a week. However, what is the reason behind this guideline and why is the figure not less or more?
Well, as I am sure we are all aware, alcohol has both pros and cons. On one hand, we feel super confident ripping out the full rendition of Bohemian Rapsody at a karaoke night. On the other hand, we wake up the next day with a banging hangover and the belief that we will never drink alcohol again. Sound familiar?
Benefits of Alcohol
There are reasons alcohol is so popular, but it might not be for the reasons you immediately jump to.
In certain situations, alcohol is considered an effective tool for stress relief. Its mode of action can have a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing feelings of anxiety and tension.
In terms of chronic disease prevention and management, it can improve heart health. Research has shown that light-moderate drinking correlates with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and can increase our good cholesterol, whilst decreasing our bad cholesterol. Small amounts of alcohol can also improve our insulin sensitivity, meaning that glucose (aka sugar) is more easily absorbed within our cells. This means that our risk of type two diabetes is decreased.
Alcohol, specifically red wine, contains polyphenols, which hold powerful antioxidant properties. Hence, why a glass of red is considered to be a healthy part of a Mediterranean diet.
Consequences of Alcohol
However, it would be remiss of me to avoid discussing the consequences of alcohol.
Behaviour change is a common consequence, which is likely to be something we’ve all experienced… (and potentially regretted the next day). When we drink an excessive amount, we can lose our inhibitions and can get a little too groovy on the dance floor. Depending on our moves, this may not be a bad thing!
It is when we drink too much, too often things can become a little pear-shaped. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can lead to liver scarring. This may mean the liver cannot function as effectively, leading to disruptions in blood flow, fluid build-up in the abdominal area, impaired functioning to the brain and an increased risk of liver cancer.
Alcohol abuse can also lead to an increased risk of nutrient deficiencies, by disrupting the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients. This specifically relates to the fat-soluble vitamins, which are responsible for reproduction, growth and general good health.
So, what is the bottom line? Drink alcohol in moderation.
We need to balance the pros with the cons and consume alcohol in safe quantities. It is also important to note that the recommendations are purely guidelines based on population averages. The upper limit of two standard drinks per day may not be appropriate for certain population groups, for example under 18s, pregnant & lactating women, athletes and individuals with certain conditions.
For specific guidelines relating to alcohol recommendations, book a consult with our dietitian Annabel. She will be able to conduct a comprehensive assessment and provide tailored recommendations to suit your goals. Give us a call on 1300 800 993 to book your first consult!