There are many reasons why it is a good idea to drink in moderation. Drinking too much can be dangerous on many levels, especially if you binge-drink. There is risk of violence, injury, accidents and unwise, drunken behaviors. Working in the restaurant industry for as long as I have, I have been witness to this.

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor-vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver — one death every 48 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion.

In 2010, more than 1.4 million people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is only 1 percent of the 112 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S adults each year, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). These statistics are a great argument to cut down on drinking.

Drinking while driving aside, there are other health issues with over-drinking. It can increase the risk of certain cancers, including breast, liver and oral cancers, according to a study by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. The doctors aren’t sure exactly how alcohol influences cancer development, but they speculate that the ethanol or alcohol in liquor, beer and wine can damage cells, making them unstable and vulnerable to cancer.

So, ask yourself: Should I stop drinking altogether? My answer is, of course, no.

 

Good for your health

There has been a review of 84 existing studies on the link between alcohol intake and heart disease, heart attack or stroke. The review found that people who drink moderately were 14 to 25 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people who did not drink at all. Moderate drinkers were also less likely to die from a heart-related event.

In another study, researchers reviewed the effect of alcohol consumption on 21 different biological markers of heart risk in healthy adult participants of 63 other studies. Two of these markers were levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and levels of fibrinogen, an indicator of poor heart health. The researchers found that both men and women who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol increased their level of HDL and lowered levels of fibrinogen.

The definition of “moderate drinking” is no more than one glass of alcohol a day for women and up to two glasses of alcohol a day for men (depending on their body size). It did not matter what type of alcohol was consumed, the studies found: The results were consistent across the board.

 

Benefits of wining

So what’s with all of this talk about red wine being better for you than other alcoholic beverages? As noted above, it doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol you drink for heart health — as long as it is in moderation.

Red wine has many other benefits. Here are more that researchers have found:

•Sleep — Research shows that some red wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, contain melatonin, which regulates your body clock and is an antioxidant.

•Longevity — A compound in red wine called resveratrol has been shown to increase lifespan in animal studies.

•Brain health — Resveratrol has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

•Heart health — Red wine reduces the risk of heart disease, thanks to the resveratrol and other antioxidants it contains.

•Lung cancer — A study from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain found that a glass of red wine per day reduced the risk of lung cancer by 13 percent.

•Prostate cancer — Four or more glasses of red wine per week has been shown to reduce men’s overall risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent.

•Breast cancer — Moderate consumption of red wine is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer (drinking more than one or two glasses per day actually increases the risk).

•Colds — Researchers in Spain found that people who drank more than two glasses of red wine per day have 44-percent fewer colds than people who did not drink at all.

•Inflammation — Resveratrol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which helps overall physical health since many diseases can be attributed to inflammation.

•Cholesterol — Resveratrol and saponins (also found in red wine) have cholesterol-lowering properties.

•Gut bacteria — Drinking red wine has been found to change the mix of good and bad bacteria typically found in the colon in ways that can benefit health.

So I say drink in moderation, and if you are going to stick with one alcoholic beverage of choice, make that red wine!

JEFFREY DORGAN, the Washington Wine Commission’s 2009 Sommelier of the Year, is the wine director at Sullivan’s in Downtown Seattle. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.