When is drinking alcohol bad for your health?

by ir. Yvana van den Hork

In the past decade we were told indulging in one or two glasses of alcohol (just one for women) a day is healthy. This was even one of the many recommendations in the national (Dutch) health guidelines. In the past year though, a drastic change occurred: the recommendation changed into zero to perhaps to a most one glass of alcohol a day! So, what gives?

Alcohol and especially red wine (which contains resveratrol) has health benefits for the aging population such as lower risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia because of its vasodilatory effects.
However, benefits already flip over to risks at just two glasses a day with a heightened risk of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, strokes and just plain liver damage.
Worse yet, regardless of intake, alcohol raises the risk for breast cancer at all rates, while the risk for developing diabetes depends on the type of alcohol being consumed (beer is most dangerous for men, hard liquor for women).

In general, health benefits are almost entirely limited for (red) wine. These numbers are reflecting an effective intake of 1-2 glasses a day and not an average, which means spreading out consumption is important in order to reap benefits.
Daily consumption of one glass on most days is beneficial, while drinking up to 5 glasses once a week is not.

Fine you say, but there's no day like the present. What can I do to diminish the negative side-effects when I still want to indulge a little too much once in a while?
Make sure to be well fed and hydrated before consuming an alcoholic beverage, in other words, only drink alcohol with a meal and after having had a few non-alcoholic beverages first and not by itself.
Because alcohol inhibits the absorption of vitamin B1, vitamin B12, folic acid (B9) and zinc, it is a good idea to habitually take extra B-vitamins and zinc.

For those of us that also work out in the gym, take extra leucine and whey to prevent muscle wasting. Also work out before drinking and don't go back to the gym within the next 36-48 hours as drinking will slow down recovery.
The older you are, the more time is needed.

If you are dumb enough to drink too much, N-acetyl-cystein, milk thistle, vitamin C and magnesium plus of course ample amounts of water will speed up recovery the next day.

People who chronically consume too much alcohol also deplete SAM-e levels in the liver, since an enzyme needed for SAM-e production is being blocked. Taking therapeutic doses of SAMe helps reverse that affect.
Without SAM-e, liver cells cannot carry out their normal detoxification reactions, resulting in further damage to liver tissue. Patients with cirrhosis may therefore require SAMe as an essential nutrient.