4 Reasons to Toast to Your Health
1. Better Memory
A Wake Forest University study found that adults 75 years and older who have a drink or two a day end up with a 37 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who completely abstain. Alcohol may stimulate the release of acetylcholine, a brain chemical important for memory, explains study author Kaycee Sink, MD, assistant professor at Wake Forest University Medical Center.
2. Less Inflammation
Scottish research found that resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, prevented mice's bodies from creating two molecules known to trigger inflammation. Although experts don't think this exact effect will transfer to humans because of the large amount of resveratrol needed, they are looking into how this powerful chemical might be used to treat inflammatory diseases such as appendicitis. Regardless, drinking a glass of red wine each day is not a bad idea. "Alcohol helps with inflammation and definitely will reduce pain," says Alirio Melendez, MD, PhD, senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow. "Many scientists believe that a glass of wine each day may help control potential inflammatory diseases that would otherwise appear."
3. A Healthier Tummy
Gallstones—hardened chunks of digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder—may be prevented by alcohol intake. A recent English study found that those who consumed the equivalent of a little over one drink per day had a one-third lower risk of developing this painful condition. Alcohol decreases mucin, which is produced by the gallbladder and forms microcrystals that can lead to stones, explains study coauthor Paul Banim, MD, clinical lecturer at the University of East Anglia in the UK.
4. Longer Life
Harvard researchers examined over 23,000 people who consumed a Mediterranean diet and found that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol—as well as eating more veggies, fruits, nuts and olive oil—was linked to living longer. And alcohol (red wine in particular) was one of the key components to results, experts think. When the alcohol factor was excluded from their rating system, the benefits of following a Mediterranean diet were substantially reduced. Ethanol, a compound in alcohol that may have protective benefits, likely plays a role. But red wine also contains important antioxidants that could help people live longer, says study author Dimitros Trichopoulos, MD, professor of cancer prevention and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Bottom line:Experts agree that if you don't drink to begin with, don't start. However, a drink or two (tops!) per day may have some potential health benefits. The key is moderation. Most studies found that excessive or binge drinking cancels out any positive health aspects, not to mention that it can result in a host of other serious problems, like liver damage and heart failure.
Video: 6 Healthy Toast Ideas For Breakfast
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