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The Six Suprising Health Benefits of Drinking Alcohol
Arriving neatly in time for the start of the World Cup, Ascot and the BBQ season, comes the news that being a light drinker are healthier than being teetotal. A team of researchers from Queen's University Belfast have found that people who drink up to three glasses of wine or beer a week are seven per cent less likely to die or develop cancer than those who don't drink at all. "This study helps to provide robust evidence about the health impacts of various levels of alcohol consumption so that individuals can make informed, healthy decisions," says Andrew Kunzman, who led the study. However, he said that teetotallers shouldn't start drinking in light of his study and suggested other factors could be at play: "It is possible that light drinkers may be at a lower risk of death for other reasons, such as better access to healthcare, or [they] may have other healthy behaviours that we could not account for." "The other thing to consider is the study participants who are teetotal may not drink because of underlying health conditions, which skews the findings," says Katie Edmunds from Cancer Research UK. "UK government guidelines for low risk drinking are no more than 14 units of alcohol a week for both men and women," says Edmunds, "which is about seven pints of beer and seven small glasses of wine. That's not a target to aim towards, like 30 minutes of exercise, but rather an upper safe limit to keep in mind. "And while moderate drinking may offer some health benefits, other things like exercise, a balanced diet, not smoking and staying active are also health-protective. That said, quite a few studies have extolled the benefits of light drinking, - but the emphasis must be on light." With that in mind, here are six surprising health benefits of (moderate, responsible) drinking. It can strengthen your heart Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil found that moderate drinking can strengthen the heart because it teaches the heart's cells to cope with stress. The researchers found the enzymes produced by the body to clear the toxic chemicals from alcohol are the same ones it releases to protect the heart from damage, for example during a heart attack. Exposure to low levels of alcohol effectively trained the body to create these enzymes. However, binge drinking and excessive drinking had the opposite effect and weakened the heart. It can boost fertility Researchers at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, found that drinking one glass of red wine a week boosts fertility in women. The team believe it's because of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes, improves the quantity, health and viability of a woman's eggs. Resveratrol is also present in blueberries and cocoa. It can prevent depression While too much alcohol is a known depressive and contributor to poor emotional health, light to moderate consumption of red wine may make you less prone to depression. This is according to a Spanish study that was published in the health journal BMC Medicine. Researchers found those who drank light amounts of red wine each week had a lower risk of depression, despite other factors like marital status, smoking and diet remaining the same. However, the researchers found more than seven glasses of red wine a week increased the risk of depression. It can reduce your diabetes risk Otherwise healthy people who drink moderately have less chance of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, according to 10-year Dutch study that looked at 35,000 adults aged between 20 and 70. The researchers, from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment, found that moderate drinkers had a 40 per cent less chance of developing type 2 diabetes than teetotallers. The study defined moderate drinking as a maximum of one glass of wine per day for women and two for men. "The results of the investigation show that moderate alcohol consumption can play a part in a healthy lifestyle to help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes," said one of the study authors. It can help keep you slim A 2010 study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drink very lightly were less likely to gain weight than those who either didn't drink, or drank excessively. Lu Wang, who was lead researcher on the study, suggested that women who drink moderately tend to eat healthier overall and that the bodies of long-term light drinkers have adapted to metabolise alcohol differently to those who binge drink at the weekend. It can boost brain power Drinking the equivalent of one or two drinks a day can 'clear brain waste' and make us sharper, according to scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. Scientists there found light drinking can reduce brain inflammation and increase the function of the glymphatic system, which is responsible for removing waste products from the brain. Excessive drinking, however, was found to impair the glymphatic system and increase inflammation.  
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