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The Health Benefits, and Risks, of Alcohol
Date:7/20/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Mirroring so much of life, alcohol consumption comes with plusses and minuses.

A lot of recent research has highlighted the potentially beneficial effects on the heart and other parts of the body of drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages. But risks to health exist, too, as well as the more well-known and potentially life-threatening effects of alcohol, including drunken driving and addiction.

The Good

Alcohol consumption in moderation has been linked to a host of good outcomes. Studies have suggested that drinking alcohol, wine in particular, may reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, gallstone formation, type 2 diabetes and dementia. It may also give your metabolism a slight boost.

"Alcohol, especially red wine, has resveratrol and antioxidants and bioflavonoids and polyphenols, and all of these wonderful things that dilate the arteries and reduce inflammation," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

"Alcohol can definitely be part of a heart-healthy diet if you're drinking responsibly," she said.

"Drinking responsibly," though, might very well mean drinking less than you think, another expert noted.

"Moderate alcohol consumption for women is up to one drink a day, and for men it's two drinks a day," explained Elizabeth Kovacs, director of the alcohol research program at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. "One drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor."

Steinbaum pointed out that people should be especially careful when ordering a glass or two of wine at a restaurant because they're often far larger than one serving size.

Kovacs added that "the benefits of alcohol are pretty restricted, and it's only beneficial if you drink
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