I see a few different ideologies floating around. I'm not interested in the question of whether alcohol is "paleo" right now (though I think the answer is no)... But subjectively I see an overwhelming majority of paleohackers espousing the notion that people should not drink. AT ALL... because alcohol is bad... So where do you really stand on the issue?
Alcohol is bad for your health and we'd all be better off practicing abstinence.
The way I see it these are mutually exclusive. They can't both be wrong or both be right. Either way, let's throw in a...
Moderate alcohol consumption has no effect on health and longevity. It's a personal choice.
So, where do you stand? Want to bust out some studies or anecdotes?
Should we be recommending light drinking, even a couple drinks a night, as an important part of a healthy diet and lifestyle?
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My refrigerator is absurdly packed with beer. I enjoy buying it more than drinking it for some reason. I think collecting Ninja Turtles as a kid has something to do with that, but I digress....
Anyway, beer is actually fairly nutritious, and I don't believe I've ever seen a study that showed teetotalers to have a health/longevity advantage over moderate drinkers. Sometimes the studies will define "moderate drinkers" the way I would define "alcoholics," so there may be quite a bit of leeway.
I've seen studies that showed that moderate beer consumption increased bone mineral density by ~5% (it was presumed that the silicon content (silicontent?) was the important factor.
I saw another one where beer consumption lowered homocysteine levels (and presumably CVD risk) due, if I recall, to the vitamin b12, b6, and folate content.
Beer has about 20mg of magnesium per serving and the manufacture of it removes about 95% of the phytic acid, so any minerals should be largely bioavailable.
The cancer studies went both directions depending on the cancer in question and especially depending upon whether the individuals smoke as well. Alcohol really potentiates the carcinogenic nature of tobacco. I would imagine that any cancer issue would come down to the ethanol metabolite acetaldehyde.
Due, I suppose, to my consistently high vitamin D levels (or good luck), I have zero reaction to wheat, so I actually drink unfiltered German weissbeer. Nothing quite like a cold Franziskaner on a hot day.
As I stated in another thread recently, my alcohol tolerance is completely dependent upon zinc status, and I would wager that very few paleoers are zinc deficient, so I would expect the risks of drinking alcohol to be far less in this cohort. My reasoning being that if you're upregulating the activity of the ADH enzymes via zinc sufficiency, you're probably upregulating the activity of the ALDH ones as well.
People are spooked by alcohol (I know I was for a while) but after looking at it logically, I've realized that (at least in the case of beer) it's simply another nutritious fermented food. I don't think it's anywhere near as beneficial as the natto I eat most days, but all told I would expect it to be a net positive.
That all being said, those calories definitely add up, although I've found beer to produce a surprising degree of satiety when consumed alone. Calorie for calorie, I doubt it's much worse than, say, apples.
I may have several drinks throughout the week and some on the weekends, depends. I am sure that some alcohol has some benefits if consumed moderately others probably do not. My thought is if you enjoy it why quit, unless it inters with your life or you have a substance problem. I exercise 5-6 days a week and eat very healthy, so I have one vice! If I have to give up cake, I am keeping alcohol.
I've read that abstainer groups often include alcoholics (who've quit), or people with a history of substance abuse.
Could worse health/cognitive performance be related to the damage they've already caused to themselves?
I haven't even finished reading it but was so eager to post here. Especially interesting are the effects of moderate drinking on cognitive performance and incidence of dementia...
If you have the self control to keep it to "moderation" and are still questioning my stance on the issue I strongly suggest you READ THIS ASAP...
This is one (perhaps my favorite) section:
Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementia
- A study in France found moderate drinkers to have a 75% lower risk for Alzheimer's Disease and an 80% lower risk for senile dementia.109
- Research on 7,460 women age 65 and older found that those who consumed up to three drinks per day scored significantly better than non-drinkers on global cognitive function, including such things as concentration, memory, abstract reasoning, and language. The investigators adjusted or controlled for such factors as educational level and income that might affect the results, but the significant positive relationships remained.110
- Researchers in Australia studied 7,485 people age 20 to 64 years. They found that moderate drinkers performed better than abstainers on all measures of cognitive ability. Sex, race, education and extroversion-introversion failed to account for the findings.111
- Older people who drink in moderation generally suffer less mental decline than do abstainers, another study finds. Over one thousand persons age 65 and older were studied over a period of seven years. Overall, light and moderate drinkers experienced less mental decline than did non-drinkers.112
- Women who consume alcohol (beer, wine or distilled spirits) moderately on a daily basis are about 20% less likely than abstainers to experience poor memory and decreased thinking abilities, according to data from 12,480 women age 70 to 81 who participated in the long-term study.113
- A study of about 6,000 people age 65 and older found that moderate drinkers have a 54% lower chance of developing dementia than abstainers. The type of alcohol beverage consumed (wine, spirits, or beer) didn't make a difference in the protective effects of drinking in moderation.114
- A study of 7,983 people aged 55 of age or older in The Netherlands over an average period of six years found that those who consumed one to three drinks of alcohol (beer, wine, or distilled spirits) per day had a significantly lower risk of dementia (including Alzheimer's) than did abstainers.115
- A study of over 400 people at least 75 years old who were followed for a period of six years found that drinkers were only half as likely to develop dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) as similarly-aged abstainers from alcohol. Abstainers were defined as people who consumed less than one drink of alcohol per week.116
- Moderate drinking among older women can benefit memory according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health. Moderate drinkers performed better on instrumental everyday tasks, had stronger memory self-efficacy and improved memory performance." The performance memory tests include such topics as remembering a story, route, hidden objects, future intentions and connecting random numbers and letters. In all cases, the group who drank scored better than those who did not drink. Women who drank alcohol in moderation (defined as consuming up to two drinks of beer, wine or spirits per day) also performed better on attention, concentration, psychomotor skills, verbal-associative capacities and oral fluency.117
- A study of 1,018 men and women age 65-79 whose physical and mental health was monitored for an average of 23 years found that "drinking no alcohol, or too much, increases risk of cognitive impairment," in the words of the editor of the British Medical Journal, which published the study.
- A study of over 6,000 people in the U.K. found that those who consume as little as a single drink of alcoholic beverage per week have significantly greater cognitive functioning than teetotalers. Abstainers were twice as likely as occasional drinkers to receive the lowest cognitive functioning test scores. The beneficial mental effects of alcohol were found when a person drinks up to about 30 drinks per week, and increased with consumption. The researchers did not test the effects of higher levels of alcohol drinking. The research team suggests that alcohol (beer, wine, or liquor) improves mental functioning because it increases blood flow to the brain.118
- Moderate alcohol consumption protects older persons from the development of cognitive impairment, according to a study of 15,807 Italian men and women 65 years of age and older. Among the drinkers only 19% showed signs of mental impairment compared to 29% of the abstainers. The relationship continued even when other factors in cognitive impairment, such as age, education, and health problems were considered.119
- An 18-year study of Japanese-American men found "a positive association between moderate alcohol intake among middle-aged men and subsequent cognitive performance in later life." Moderate drinkers scored significantly higher on the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument (CASI), which includes tests of attention, concentration, orientation, memory, and language. Both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers had the lowest CASI scores.120
- The moderate consumption of alcohol was associated with superior mental function among older women compared to abstainers in a study of 9,000 women aged 70 to 79 over a period of 15 years. The women's mental function was assessed with seven different tests. After adjusting for other factors that might affect mental function, the researchers found that the women who drank in moderation performed significantly better on five of seven tests. They also performed significantly better on a global score that combined all seven tests. The researchers found that the effect of moderate alcohol consumption on cognitive functioning was the equivalent of being one to two years younger.121
- Drinking alcohol (beer, wine or liquor) in moderation is one of the strategies that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life according to a review of research conducted by scholars from the School of Aging Studies at the University of South Florida and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They systematically analyzed the existing research to identify how dementia can be reduced. Abstaining from alcohol and abusing alcohol are both risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia.122
Myth #1 and Myth #2 are not mutually exclusive.
Polyphenols are more abundant in red wine than in the raw fruits that make up that wine. But many spices like tumeric and cinnamin have higher concentrations than wine. So this brings up two questions (1) is the increase in polyphenols a benefit for someone who is eating a clean diet with lots of fruits, or is it only beneficial in those following a SAD with moderate to low fruit. (2) Would we be better off if those observational studies compared a diet rich in fruit, herbs, and spices without any alcohol consumption.
My take on what I have seen is that the benefits of drinking alcohol are marginal. As long as alcohol stays below 2%-5% of your caloric load (assuming you are not over-eating) then the health consequences are marginal as well.
Personally I drink beer, wine, and scotch. I probably have 3-5 drinks per week on a typical week and never more than 2 in a day (and that's pretty rare). I drink because I like it, but I do not try to kid myself and think that I am doing it for health reasons.
What's the point of looking and feeling so great on the paleo diet if your staying in all the time? Enjoy your Vodka! :)
I'm not sure alcohol has any health benefits for the physical body but the consumption may benefit an individual's mentality if they socialize more and have more fun while treating themselves to some moderate alcohol. If the individual doesn't have enough self control then they might find that the benefits are outweighed by regrets. I know I fall into the 2nd category because when I drink, paleo goes out the window and I eat ALL THE THINGS in sight.