advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Should You Drink for Your Health?

Since both my parents are alcoholics, I don't drink. Lately I have read a lot about the benefits of a glass of wine once a day or every other day. What is your opinion about this?

A
Answer (Published 3/8/2002)

(Reviewed 1/24/2005)

First of all, I would like to commend you for making a wise decision to avoid drinking in light of your parent's alcoholism. Although we don't know for sure that alcoholism is inherited, there is no doubt that it runs in families. Genetic makeup may be partly responsible, but the risk also may be due to environment, growing up in a home where alcohol is available and heavy drinking is acceptable. Not every child of an alcoholic parent eventually develops a drinking problem, but it is true that the risk is greater than normal. (By the way, children of parents who completely abstain from alcohol also have a higher rate of alcoholism.)

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Addiction - Are you a smoker? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online plan offers simple steps to help kick the habit, including acupuncture for smoking cessation and advice on eating protective, antioxidant rich foods that may help heal the damaging effects of smoking. Start your 14-day free trial now!

It is also true that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol does confer some health benefits but there is a trade-off. Consider these pros and cons:

The "Pros":

  • Moderate drinking appears to protect against coronary artery disease and heart attack. Here, "moderate" means two drinks or less per day for men and one or less for women. These relatively small amounts of alcohol are believed to raise levels of HDL, the "good" cholesterol, and reduce the risk of blood clots forming in coronary arteries.
  • Moderate drinking - up to two drinks per day in this case - may reduce an older person's risk of developing dementia including Alzheimer's disease. A study completed in the Netherlands showed that it doesn't matter what you drink - wine, beer, liquor or a fortified wine such as sherry. However, no such protective effect was seen among heavy drinkers - those who guzzled four or more drinks per day.

The "Cons":

  • Even small amounts of alcohol may increase the risk of breast cancer, and the more women drink, the greater their risk. Among premenopausal women, alcohol may increase estrogen levels which, in turn, may promote breast cancer.
  • Moderate drinking during pregnancy may increase the risk of stillbirth as well as that of physical, mental and behavioral problems among the children of mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy. The stillbirth data comes from a Danish study completed in 1998.

My feeling is that if you don't drink alcohol, you certainly shouldn't start for health reasons. You can reduce your risks of heart disease via diet and exercise, and evidence suggests that we may be able to protect against Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia by "exercising" our minds. My own drinking habits are quite modest. I like premium Japanese sake once in a while and, less often, a glass of good wine. Otherwise I am more likely to drink water or tea.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here