According to Harvard, more than 100 scientific studies show a relationship between moderate drinking and a reduced risk of death from heart attacks, clot-caused strokes and overall cardiovascular causes. Alcohol in reasonable amounts raises your levels of high-density lipoprotein, also known as “good” cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease. Some types of alcohol are better protectants than others – red wine, specifically, has a high concentration of polyphenols that can reduce blood pressure. Additionally, the University of Rochester Medical Center notes that moderate drinking can help protect blood vessels in the brain, as well as those in the heart, decreasing the risk for dementia.
Many of the drawbacks of alcohol appear when you round the curve from drinking moderately to drinking heavily or binge drinking. Heavy drinking can lead to inflammation of the liver, known as alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. It also increases blood pressure, can damage the heart muscle and potentially plays a role in the development of several cancers, including breast, colon, mouth and liver, says Harvard. In addition, heavy drinking increases the risk for osteoporosis, particularly in young women, says University of Rochester Medical Center. Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to weight gain, given that it serves up 7 calories per gram without offering any nutrients along with it. Drinking can also cloud your judgment, paving the way for destructive decisions such as getting behind the wheel of a car.