Going out for drinks is one of the most popular pastime activities worldwide. In many cases starting from the teenage years, alcohol consumption is a fairly common choice when we want to socialize, but also when we prefer to spend some fun time alone. Our drink of preference, as well as the amount, play an important role for our health, especially in terms of something more than occasional consumption. But what is the ultimate effect of alcohol on health and whether some drinks are better than others, is still a subject of research.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the French paradox was first introduced to the scientific community. This term refers to the reduced incidence of coronary heart disease in the French compared to other Europeans or the Americans, despite the fact that their eating and smoking habits did not differ significantly. It was then hypothesized that the increased alcohol consumption observed in France was the factor that protected cardiovascular health. Many researchers started investigating the hypothesis and the results were not long in coming. Since alcohol consumption, especially red wine, is common in many Mediterranean countries, they were used as samples of such studies in several cases. It is worth mentioning the “Attica” study, which, after examining a sample coming from various Mediterranean islands, showed that moderate daily alcohol consumption, regardless of the type of drink (wine or beer), seemed to have a cardioprotective effect in the decade! Due to their dietary habits and lifestyle, very positive results have been seen in terms of cardiovascular health in many Mediterranean regions, with Ikaria holding a prominent position. Specifically, on this island, among other things, there is an increased life expectancy, low levels of cardiovascular disease and almost no cases of dementia. The latter can also be partly attributed to the daily mild consumption of red wine, as there is research evidence to support this correlation. Finally, it is worth mentioning that, despite the fact that we do not often evaluate it as a health indicator, the consumption of a moderate amount of alcohol seems to improve the mood, regardless of whether we indulge in it alone or with friends.
It becomes obvious from the aforementioned, that the impact of red wine has been investigated thoroughly and indeed the results are encouraging for moderate consumption. This result is attributed to some substances contained in it, called polyphenols, with emphasis on resveratrol, a component with strong antioxidant activity. However, is red wine the only alcoholic beverage with such an outcome on cardiovascular health? A recent study, examining evidence from previous ones, suggested that beer has also a cardioprotective effect when consumed in moderation. As mentioned before, the “Attica” study examined the effect of beer consumption and the results are similar to those of red wine. Additionally, when several types of alcoholic beverages were examined, such as white wine, distilled beverages (whiskey, gin, vodka, etc.), beer and cider, along with red wine, it appeared that the wine, regardless of colour, had the best results, followed by from the beer, with the distilled ones at a distance. We conclude, then, that the type of alcohol we drink is an important factor concerning health outcomes.
We conclude from the foregoing that wine and beer have a positive effect on health, when consumed in moderation, in adults However, given the negative effects of alcohol, especially in chronic consumption, we do not instruct someone who does not drink to start it, and of course someone who over-consumes should reduce it or even quit it completely. What we can safely admit is that if you are a woman and you have 1 glass of wine with your meal or a man and drink 1-2 glasses, especially with good company, keep it up. This is what they have been doing in France and Ikaria for years and we all see their admirable results!