Problems with alcoholism are well known, but what about the effects of social drinking or moderate alcohol consumption? Does alcohol have a place in a balanced and healthy diet, or do the risks of consuming it outweigh its benefits?
Alcohol affects both our bodies and our minds. It is the most accepted psychoactive substance by society. It is part of our social and cultural life, part of many social events, from family dinners to sporting events and night parties. The authorities also suggest that if we consume alcohol, try to spread it over several days instead of “binge drinking,” when we drink a lot at once, for example, at a party or an event.
In general, as alcohol can cause a variety of health and social problems, there is no recommendation for alcohol consumtion per se, but rather the authorities recommend an upper limit. The guidelines vary by countries. In Hungary, this amount means 3 units of alcohol per day for men and a maximum of 1.5 units for women. In England, for example, the upper limit is set at 14 units per week spread over 3 or more days, regardless of gender.
How much is one unit? By definition, one unit of alcohol means 10 ml of pure alcohol, which is equal to half a pint of normal-strength beer or a shot (25 ml) of spirit. A small glass of wine (125 ml) contains about 1.5 units, while a standard larger glass contains 2.1 units and a bottle of wine contains 10 units. Of course, there may be differences between different brands.
It is publicly believed that 1 dl of red wine a day is good for our health. In reality, however, this is not a valid health recommendation. Similarly, pálinka cannot be used to “disinfect” our body or our stomach. In general, due to the harmful effects of ethanol in alcohols, we do not rely on the nutritional value or positive physiological effect of alcoholic beverages.
Answering our question of whether there is a place to consume alcohol in a healthy and balanced diet, the answer is yes, but in very moderate amounts. Occasional moderate alcohol consumption can also have the social impact that can cerainly add to one's life satisfaction. However, it is also worth noting that recent studies suggest that even drinking within the recommended range may increase the overall risk of death from various causes, such as multiple cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, if our drinking habits exceed the limits recommended by the authorities, it is worth trying to reduce them, even with the help of a professional, because the harmful use of alcohol can impose a social and economic burden on the individual in addition to health problems.