Saturday, February 10, 2007

Can I Buy You a Drink?

"Can I buy you a drink?" Man, I haven't used that line in . . . well . . . decades! More properly today's comment generated question (thanks David) is "SHOULD I buy MYSELF a drink?" Wow, what a loaded (pun intended) question.

The Good

It is generally accepted that 'moderate' drinking, 1-2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women, results in better cardiac outcomes over those who have no alcohol intake at all. One drink is considered 12oz. of beer, 4oz. of wine, or 1oz. of spirits (100 proof). Each of these amounts delivers about 12 to 14 grams of ethanol, the active ingredient in these beverages. Here is what the evidence seems to show on the positive side.

1. The best known effect is an increase of up to 18% in good cholesterol (HDL) and the effect has been shown to be dose dependent (See THIS STUDY).

2. Like aspirin, alcohol (and compounds found in alcohol like resveratrol in wines) reduce platelet aggregation (clotting). After all what is a heart attack but the formation of a clot?! In fact, the American Heart Association recommends AGAINST drinking alcohol if you are on an aspirin regimen (Yikes, what about fish oil on top of that? I should be hemorrhaging any minute now!)

3. Red wines contain flavonoids that act as anti-oxidants. Of course, the role of anti-oxidants in heart disease is in question.

4. Multiples studies over 10 to 15 years in duration with tens of thousands of participants show a 20% to 40% reduction in heart disease related death in moderate drinkers versus non-drinkers.

5. Yes, there are a few other non-heart related benefits. But, that is for some other blog.

The Bad

Now the bad news (as if you didn't know). I won't even bore you with a point by point discussion of the potential physical and psychological damage due to alcohol abuse (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiomyopathy, liver disease, cancer, depression/suicide, birth defects, traffic fatalities, yada, yada, yada). Two more things.

1. A drink per day means just that. You cannot "save up" your drinking for the weekend.

2. If you drink, supplement your diet with about 600mcg of folic acid (Vitamin B-9). Alcohol blocks and and inhibits folic acid. This is especially crucial to mitigate the increased risk of breast cancer from alcohol.

The Ugly

Let' face it, like dynamite, alcohol is powerful stuff with the potential for both good and bad. The problem is stopping after one. ONE DRINK!? You gotta be kidding me. I can knock off a whole bottle of red wine in an evening with no problem. And, let's not kid ourselves. You can achieve EVERY ONE of the benefits of alcohol, without partaking of a single drop, via diet, exercise, supplements, and other medications.

Lord knows, I am not a temperance zealot. I drink moderately (well, OK, sometimes not so moderately). But, alcohol is a drug. Using it is tantamount to self-medication without a doctor's prescription. But, it is legal and anyone who drinks knows full well the (temporary) social and physical pleasure it can provide. The trick is to drink responsibly. Here is a trick I use from time to time just to keep myself honest. Try abstaining completely for a week every so often. If you cannot, at least be smart enough to get help! AND FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE! Now be careful out there.


P.S. Track Your Plaque Members: CLICK HERE to read Dr. Davis' detailed publication on this issue. It goes way beyond this humble blog!


David said...

Good stuff! So I guess my occasional 2-3 pint "binges" at the local pub are a bit over the line (actually more than a bit, given it translates to 2.7-4.5 drinks vs the 1-2 guideline!). Alas, woe is me ... another of life's pleasures bites the dust!

HeartHawk said...


I live by Dr. Davis' immortal words. "What good is it if I keep you alive but you are miserable."

You gotta die sometime (dammit).
Just don't go crazy - good or bad. For example, in the beginning I went nuts. If the label showed ANY fat I tossed it. Then all my friends and relatives starting to ask if I were sick and dying. They said I looked like a concentration camp victim. Hell, now even I eat a nice steak or pizza once in a while! So I'm killing myself right alongside you. Ya know, I even forget to brush and floss some nights!

Hey, maybe toss in a Sharps (yuck - OK - maybe O'Douls - well - OK - just close your eyes and swallow hard) between rounds and you're there!

Skol Brother!


John Townsend said...

Just a quick heads up on your comment about folic acid (ie “If you drink, supplement your diet with about 600mcg of folic acid”), although studies are not conclusive, folate therapy (taking a combination of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12) may be harmful after stent placement and probably should be avoided. For those who have this condition it’s advised instead, to try to get enough vitamin B by eating a balanced diet. [ref: Lange H, et al. (2004). Folate therapy and in-stent restenosis after coronary stenting. New England Journal of Medicine, 350(26): 2673–2681]

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