What exactly is the connection between alcohol and cholesterol? And what is the effect of alcohol on your cholesterol?
That is a question asked by many people. Surprisingly, the answer is a mostly positive one. But before you run off to the liquor store, there are a few things you should know.
The consumption, in moderation, of alcohol is currently believed to increase the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood. The bad cholesterol (LDL) is washed away by the good..
However, the amount of alcohol consumed is important because if you over do it you will create new problems for yourself that will far outweigh any currently perceived benefit.
A moderate use of alcohol is known to help decrease the chances of heart disease. This is thought especially true for red wine, known as the “French paradox”.
In France, the consumption of red wine is twice that of the United States and the rate of death from heart disease is half. The connection between moderate use of alcohol and cholesterol levels couldn’t be clearer.
But what precisely is “moderate” drinking? The simple answer is not to overdo it. The boundaries of moderation differ for men and women.
US Advice on safe levels
For men, two drinks per day are considered to be moderate while women have a limit of one drink a day.
Now what constitutes a drink? Another simple answer as follows below:
- One 12 ounce can of beer, or
- 1 ½ oz of 80 proof liquor, or
- 1 oz of 100 proof liquor, or
- 4 oz of wine.
UK Advice on Safe levels
Men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day with a maximum intake of 21 units in one week.
Women should not regularly drink more than two or three units of alcohol per day with a maximum intake of 14 units in one week.
Now what constitutes a unit?
In the UK we measure the alcohol content of a drink in units. For instance, a pint of typical-strength bitter contains just over two units, while a glass of wine can contain anything from around 1.5 to over three, depending on the size and strength.
One UK unit is 10ml or eight grams of pure alcohol (also called ethanol).
You can calculate the units in a drink by multiplying the amount in millilitres (ml) by the strength (ABV) and dividing the result by 1000. There’s a unit for every percentage point of ABV in a litre: e.g. a litre of a typical whisky (37.5 ABV) will contain 37.5 units.
Non-drinkers should NOT begin drinking simply to reap the benefits of alcohol and cholesterol levels. There are many other ways to manage the cholesterol like increased physical activity and a cholesterol friendly diet. It should be noted that alcohol is loaded with calories and has no nutritional content whatsoever.
Of course, there is no benefit for an alcoholic because by definition of their condition they could not drink in moderation. If you’re not consuming alcohol in moderation then your drinking will likely cause you more health problems than it solves.
So in conclusion, we know that moderate alcohol use:
- Increases the HDL (good cholesterol).
- Can lower the risk of heart disease.
- Adds calories to the daily intake.
- Adds NO nutrition to the diet.
- Differs for men and women.
- Can be easily abused and cause more health related issues.
- Is not recommended for current non-drinkers.
- Is not recommended for those suffering from alcoholism.
In short, if you drink moderately now, continue and don’t abuse it. If you DON’T drink moderately now, it isn’t prudent to start.