Alcohol Fun Facts

With the festive season on our doorstep, I thought I would have a look at alcohol.

Alcohol does have many health benefits, when drunk in moderation. That’s 1 drink daily for women and 1-2 drinks daily for men. Drink more than this and the health benefit has changed into a detrimental effect. Please remember not to drink and drive.

Beer as medicine

Have you heard the saying a beer a day, keeps the doctor away? Well, it may be true?

Italians researchers found that moderate beer drinkers have a 42% lower risk of developing heart disease compared to non-drinkers.

Dutch researchers found that having 1 beer a night significantly reduced the likelihood of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Finnish researchers discovered that beer can lower your risk of forming kidney stones by up to 40%.

Spanish researchers asked students to exercise until their body temperature reached 40 degrees and then had them rehydrate with either beer or water. As its turns out the beer group remained hydrated longer than the water group. Maybe we should look at turning our hydration stations at running events into beer stations?

Canadian researchers found that antioxidants in beer can stop cataracts forming in your eyes.

An American study confirmed beer improves heart health, by reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and preventing blood clots.

Beer may even help improve bone density!

Champagne and Sparkling wine

It is true that bubbly makes you drunk faster, so take care with it over the holidays. Bursting CO2 bubbles irritate the stomach lining, increasing surface area, allowing for more alcohol absorption into the bloodstream.

British research at the University of Reading found the polyphenols in bubbly can help lower blood pressure. The bad news is they only recommend one glass a week! I hear you ask, what shall I do with the rest of the bottle? Don’t despair research has found bathing in 1 or more cups of bubbly can tighten your skin and combat redness. So why not do the two together?

Dr Tan, GP and author of the book “The healing power of Champagne” discovered bubbly contains iron and may be good for anemia. Looking into this further I realized that to cover your daily iron requirement from Champagne would require you to drink 45 bottles, something I absolutely do NOT recommend you try.

White wine

There is not much research on white wine compared to red wine but this may change in the future due to research findings like this one. A study completed by the University of Barcelona, found that white wine has more antioxidants than red wine and may actually be more therapeutic?

And the University of Connecticut found the main anti-oxidant (hydroxytyrosol) in white wine to be as effective as resveratrol (the main antioxidant in red wine) for improving heart health. This university found that the Italian, French and German whites had the highest amount of this antioxidant.

Red wine

Red wine is almost as effective as aspirin in preventing heart disease. It lowers cholesterol, keeps blood vessels flexible and reduces the risk of unwanted clots.

Spanish research looking at the Tempranillo variety of red wine lowered LDL “bad” cholesterol by 9% and total cholesterol by 12%.

(the main anti-oxidant ) in red wine protects against age-related cognitive decline.

another anti-oxidant protects against cancer, by inducing natural cell death in certain types of cancer.

Red wine drinkers have a 34% lower mortality rate compared to beer or vodka drinkers.

The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that red wine may reduce fatty deposits on the liver, balance blood sugar levels and assist with weight loss. But they found eating a handful of grapes just as useful?


Whisky is good for the common cold. Have you heard of a hot toddy? Whisky is a decongestant, an antiseptic and a numbing agent.

Single malt whiskey contains more antioxidants than wine. It’s highest in ellagic acid which helps protect against cancer.

Whisky can thin the blood and has been postulated that this could help prevent strokes.

Do you know why whiskey is the classic nightcap of choice? Because it acts like a barbiturate to reduce stress and a sedative to help with sleep.

Historically it has been used a digestive after a heavy meal.


Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that vodka (vodka and tonic) lowered the response to stressors when monitored by brain scans. But they also found it lowered attention spans.

Russians claim it cures all.

Biology of a hangover

So you can see small amounts of regular alcohol consumption can be used medicinally but if you over do it you might find yourself nursing a hangover.

When you drink alcohol, it goes to the liver to be broken down. Alcohol dehydrogenase is an enzyme that starts this process and it turns alcohol into acetaldehyde. This substance is more toxic than the alcohol itself. (Note some indigenous cultures, for example the Australian Aborigines don’t produce alcohol dehydrogenase and therefore are very sensitive to alcohol). Next acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione help to turn acetaldehyde into a non-toxic substance (acetic acid then ultimately carbon dioxide and water) that the body can eliminate. However we only have a limited amount of glutathione and when this runs out acetaldehyde levels build up, leaving us with a headache and vomiting. Women have less glutathione stores and therefore tend to have worse hangovers than males.

With this in mind here are a few tips to help reduce your chances of a hangover and ideas for getting back on track after a night that ended up being larger than it should have been.

1.     Don’t exceed 4 drinks at a function!

2.     Drink water in between each alcoholic beverage

3.     Don’t mix drinks

4.     Avoid drinks high in congeners. Congeners are produced during the fermentation process of dark spirits. They are responsible for the taste and aroma of your drink. They also increase your risk of a hangover.

5.     Go dancing, mingle or help out. This helps to slow down the rate at which you are drinking.

6.     EAT, before you go out and during the night

7.     Consider supplementing with glutathione or n-acetylcysteine (NAC), its precursor.

8.     Activated charcoal tablets work well as a sponge to absorb any lingering alcohol. It works so well it’s used in emergency after a stomach has been pumped for alcohol.

9.     Liver support such as St Mary’s Thistle

10.   Top up on anti-oxidants like Vitamin C

11.  Probiotics are destroyed by alcohol so it’s worth topping back up after the holidays.