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Your evening cocktail may be beneficial to your health

All of the research can be confusing: Is alcohol good or bad for the body? How much should you drink? Can the positive effects outweigh the negative? Piedmont Heart Institute cardiologist David Montgomery, M.D., separates fact from fiction. “When we look at everything together, it turns out that moderate amounts of alcohol seem to be the best for your health in a number of ways,” says Dr. Montgomery.

The high level of antioxidants in alcoholic beverages may be beneficial for your cardiovascular system in particular. “Antioxidants help fight changes to the blood vessel and plaque buildup, help the inside lining fight the effects of blood pressure and high blood sugar, and it also increases good cholesterol,” he explains. “These are some of the ways that alcohol – in moderate amounts – is good for your health.”

A moderate intake means one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. The following amounts are considered one serving:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (80 proof, such as gin, vodka, rum or whiskey)

However, there’s a fine line between the health benefits and negative side effects of alcohol, cautions Dr. Montgomery. In fact, too much alcohol can have the exact opposite effect as the antioxidants.

“It can oxidize your cholesterol, therefore making it more likely to cause plaque buildup in your arteries,” he says. “You can also experience more of that oxidized effect in the liver and kidneys. When you change that balance, that’s when the heavy amounts of alcohol are bad for you.”

While low to moderate alcohol intake can be good for your health, “don’t overdo it,” says Dr. Montgomery. “And if you have any questions at all, ask your doctor.”

For additional healthy lifestyle ideas, visit Health and Wellness.

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