The Alcohol Debate: Should You or Shouldn't You?

How drinking affects your health

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Reviewed By Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

Has a daily drink replaced the apple a day as a way to keep the doctor away?

Scientists have long touted the heart benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol. Newer studies have credited moderate drinking with everything from helping to keep our minds sharp as we age to lowering our risk of developing diabetes.

In fact, the new U.S. dietary guidelines give many of us official permission to enjoy one to two drinks daily.

This is great news for folks who follow the French lifestyle of sipping a glass of wine with dinner, or who enjoy an evening cocktail. But what about teetotalers -- should they start drinking? Are there some people who shouldn't drink, under any circumstances? And how do you balance the health effects of alcohol with its high calorie count?

Since some 55% of U.S. adults drink alcohol according to the CDC, it's important to understand how it affects our health. To get some answers, WebMD talked to experts about alcohol's risks and benefits and its place in a healthy diet.

Does It Help or Hurt?

Drinking alcohol can be good for your health, but it can also be harmful. It all depends on how much you drink, your age, and other factors.

There's no denying that too much alcohol can lead to serious problems. Excess alcohol can increase your risk of:

  • Liver disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood fats (triglycerides)
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome (if you're pregnant)
  • Certain cancers
  • Injury, violence, and death

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