It sounds like a mixed message: Drinking alcohol may offer some health benefits, especially for your heart. On the other hand, alcohol may increase your risk of health problems and damage your heart.
So which is it? When it comes to drinking alcohol, the key is doing so only in moderation. Certainly, you don't have to drink any alcohol, and if you currently don't drink, don't start drinking for the possible health benefits. In some cases, it's safest to avoid alcohol entirely.
In moderation, alcohol can actually offer up some notable health benefits. You’ve heard over and over just how much of a downer drinking alcohol can be for your health, and attitude. But some studies have also shown that boozing on occasion has some perks.
This isn’t a green light to down six beers during your next company happy hour. But it’s nice to know that you can hit the bar and enjoy a drink or two for the sake of your well-being.
Category 1: Wine
UB40 knew what they were talking about when they sang, “Red, red wine, you make me feel so fine.” Turns out a bottle of red can help with heart disease, immunity, and more.
1. Red Wine Can Actually Burn Fat
It’s true: A glass of red could help you with your weight loss efforts. A study from Oregon State University revealed that the dark red grapes found in some types of red wine can help people manage obesity and a metabolic fatty liver, due to a chemical called ellagic acid. This chemical slows down the growth of fat cells and stops new ones from being created, which boosts the metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells.
2. Alcohol Can Help Fight Colds
We’re not giving the okay to drink during a cold, but getting in the habit of drinking moderately can help prevent one. Two past studies found that the antioxidants in red wine can help you reduce your risk of a cold by a shocking 60 percent.
3. Red Wine is Beneficial to Your Heart
Previous research has proved that wine is great for heart health, but a recent study that compared pinot noir to vodka found that red wins. Researchers fed vodka and wine to two out of three groups of pigs along with a high fat diet for seven weeks. And while both groups that had vodka and wine both saw cardiovascular benefits, pinot noir’s antioxidants, high resveratrol content, and pro-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory properties made the alcoholic beverage the winner in this study.
4. Drinking Moderately Can Improve Sexual Function in Men
Scientists from the University of Western Australia found that wine drinkers experienced lower rates of erectile dysfunction than those who don’t drink. And the lower rate was significant, too: 25-30 percent! What’s the reason you ask? Well, the heart-healthy antioxidants present in wine may deserve all the credit.
5. And for Women, It Offers Libido-Boosting Powers
Women who drank one to two glasses of vino had heightened sexual desire, compared to ladies who didn’t down any vino, a Journal of Sexual Medicine study found. What makes the elixir so beneficial is a rich antioxidant profile that triggers nitric oxide production in the blood, which relaxes artery walls. This increases blood flow down south, creating feelings of sexual excitement.
6. Red Wine Can Boost Your Memory
Ever notice how wine nights with your friends always end with a trip down memory lane? Well, this study could shed some light on that scenario. A 2015 study done by Texas A&M University found resveratrol, a compound found in the skin of red grapes, can improve memory and cognitive function in rats. So, next time you accidentally bring up an embarrassing story of one of your friends, just blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol.
7. Wine Can Make You Live Longer
If you look forward to that glass of wine or two every evening, there’s no need to give up the habit. In one review of 24 studies, researchers noted that women who drink a glass of wine every day have a lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who booze less frequently.
8. Vino Can Boost Your Vaccine’s Effects
Ordering a glass of wine to your meal can work in your favor during cold and flu season. A study published in Vaccine suggest that drinking wine with dinner a few times a week can help enhance the effects of vaccines. Researchers gave 12 monkeys small pox vaccines, then gave them access to either 4 percent ethanol or sugar water with the same amount of calories (the control group). They tracked the monkeys' alcohol consumption for 14 months, vaccinating them again after the first seven months. Although the monkeys all responded to the first vaccine similarly, the moderate drinkers of the test group saw increased vaccine response than both the non-drinkers and heavy drinkers after the second.
9. White Wine Is Weight-Loss Friendly
It seems that red wine gets all the credit for being healthy, but fear not, white wine lovers; there’s been previous evidence that supports white wine as the better option for weight loss. A study also found that white wine’s phenols have a higher antioxidant count than the ones found in red.
10. A Glass of Cab Could Enhance Your Workout
Or any type of red wine for that matter. Research published in the Journal of Physiology found that the resveratrol found in most red wines can enhance exercise performance; improve muscle strength and heart function—all benefits similar to endurance training.
Category 2: Beer
With its high calories and reputation as “liquid carbs,” beer seems to be anything but a healthy option at the bar. Research proves that an ice cold brew can do wonders for the body. Just a rule of thumb: just as you would go redder with wine, go darker with beer to reap the benefits. Find out why we’re saying cheers to beer!
11. Beer Has Vitamins
Whether you’re a fan of Bud Light or Guinness, beer is packed with B vitamins riboflavin and thiamin, plus high levels of magnesium, and calcium. But dark beers do have a slight advantage of being the better brew thanks to its high iron content, which helps oxygen circulate around the body better.
12. Beer Can Help You Recover Faster Post-Workout
Yep, there is some truth behind the whole post-marathon beer thing! A Spanish study suggests that an ice cold beer can hydrate you just as well as water, making it perfectly ok to grab happy hour after an intense sweat session.
13. Beer Helps Protect the Brain
Cheers for beer! In 2015, the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that a compound found in beer called xanthohumol could protect brain cells from damaging, thus slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
14. Beer Can Strengthen Your Bones
Beer’s high source of silicon content is what’s responsible for an increase in bone density, according to a recent study. Moderate beer drinkers who consume 1-2 glasses a day are more likely to have that effect, but surprisingly, it’s women who reap the most benefits. The study reported that women who had two drinks per day saw their bone density increase up to 8.3 percent! Now, that’s a great excuse to hit the bar after work.
15. Beer Can Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
Another reason why beer should be a girl’s best friend? A 2006 paper suggests that the chemicals in the beer may act as phytoestrogens, which can help diminish hot flashes and lessen other menopause symptoms. That study is quite a bit dated, but it’s worth a shot or a pint.
16. Beer Lowers Heart Attack Risks in Women
The accolades for the cold brew just keep on comin’. A Swedish study that was 32 years in the making confirmed that women who drink 1-2 brewskis per week have a 30 percent lower risk of a heart attack than those who drank heavily or none at all.
17. Beer Helps Your Kidneys
A study from the Clinical Journal of American Society of Nephrology found that a bottle of beer can help you reduce the risk of kidney stones by 30 percent according to a study from Finland.
18. Beer Can Reduce Diabetes Risk
Research suggests that people who drink in moderation are 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who drank too much or none at all. But just a reminder: the magic number here is one or two. Anymore, and you’ll bump that risk up instead.
Category 3: Liquor and Other Spirits
If you’re one who prefers the harder stuff, then you’re in luck! While gin, tequila, and other spirits are known to be stronger in alcohol, sipping on these liquors can help with weight loss, diseases, and even a sore throat. So, what do we have to say to that? Saluté!
19. Like Wine, Vodka Is Also Heart-Friendly
As mentioned before, vodka can improve blood circulation, but the study above mentions that it helps the heart differently from vino. Vodka helps more collateral vessels to develop, which helps connect the heart to the lungs.
20. Tequila Can Help You Lose Weight
Sounds crazy, but we have the science to prove it. Research suggests that the agavins (natural sugar) found in this Mexican liquor are better than artificial sweeteners at helping you shed the pounds. After scientists had given a group of mice agavins into their water, they reported that the mice had lower glucose levels and were fuller longer. So, next time someone offers you a tequila shot, go for it! Just stick to one, though. (We don’t mean to be a broken record, but it’s worth the echo!)
21. Cranberry and Vodka Can Boost Your Creativity
Next time you’re stumped at a project, grab a cocktail. Cranberry and vodka can help get your creative juices flowing according to a study from Consciousness and Cognition. Researchers gave a group of men cranberry and vodka until their blood alcohol content reached 0.75 percent while the other group stayed sober and then asked them to complete a verbal puzzle while watching a movie. The men who boozed won the game! They solved the puzzle in 11.5 seconds while the teetotalers finished in 15.2 seconds.
22. Alcohol Can Soothe Sore Muscles
Whether your choice of beverage is wine or bourbon, it can help soothe your muscles, according to a study published in the International Journal of Kinesiology & Sports Science. The study had male participants go through two rounds of exercise and then consume a small amount of an alcoholic beverage or placebo beverage. The results concluded that those who drank the booze reported less muscle soreness after recovery than those who consumed a placebo.
23. Whisky Can Help a Sore Throat
While wine can reportedly help prevent a cold, this quick fix might help if one still strikes you down. Mix whisky with warm water and honey, and you’ll find temporary relief to a sore throat.
Health benefits of moderate alcohol use
Moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits. It may:
Reduce your risk of developing and dying from heart disease
Possibly reduce your risk of ischemic stroke (when the arteries to your brain become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow)
Possibly reduce your risk of diabetes
Even so, the evidence about the possible health benefits of alcohol isn't certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks.
When to avoid alcohol use
In certain situations, the risks of alcohol use may outweigh the possible health benefits. For example, use alcohol only with great care and after consulting your doctor if:
You're pregnant or trying to become pregnant
You've been diagnosed with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, or you have a strong family history of alcoholism
You have liver or pancreatic disease
You have heart failure or you've been told you have a weak heart
You take prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol
You've had a hemorrhagic stroke (when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures)
Are younger than the legal drinking age (21 years in most states within the United States)
Have precancerous conditions of the digestive tract
Operate potentially dangerous equipment or machinery (including boats, planes, or construction equipment)
Never consume alcohol before or while driving
Keep in mind that even moderate use isn't risk-free.