The Health Benefits of Alcohol

A lot of research has confirmed that people who drink a couple servings of alcohol daily live longer and have better health overall. The scientists who study this spend a lot of time looking for the active ingredients in beer and wine and booze that contribute to these beneficial health effects.

For example, resveratrol is a compound in grapes that is thought to be a strong antioxidant.

However, when these “magic bullet” compounds are studied independently, they don’t seem to show any demonstrable health benefits. A recent study just completely pooped all over the resveratrol link to red wine’s apparent health benefits, at least in older adults.

What if the benefits of alcoholic beverages are not physical benefits but rather mental ones? Alcohol in small amounts can relax the nervous system and reduce anxiety and inhibitions. That may in turn cause the body to experience less stress hormones that can damage tissues and health over time. Chronic stress is a known contributor to early death.

It has been shown that drinking one or two drinks a day is not only healthier than drinking too much, but also healthier than drinking nothing at all, statistically across the population. This supports the anti-stress idea, though it is circumstantial. Alcohol in excess is damaging to the body and mind, of course. Perhaps so is our busy modern life, in excess?

In addition to the relaxing effects of alcohol itself, hops (related to marijuana) in beer is also a soporific. That means it makes you drowsy (and why hops is an ingredient in herbal sleep aids). So beer might also help people sleep, and it is well known that getting good sleep reduces stress and keeps you healthier.

Just a hypothesis.

REFERENCE: Resveratrol Levels and All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults. JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 12, 2014.