We may have all heard about how a glass of wine a day could be at the heart of a healthy heart. While there’s some truth in that, we're here to explore the connection between your cholesterol level with your alcohol consumption.
So, what’s the story behind the various studies done about the effects of alcohol on cholesterol? Do we have enough info about whether alcohol is good for lowering your cholesterol level?
All types of alcohol, which includes beer, hard liquor, and wine all have different relationships with our bodies and cholesterol levels. Studies show that it is not the wine you’re drinking that affects your cholesterol level and the health of your heart, it is more affected by the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption.
Wine and beer may contain beneficial components that may lower your cholesterol level when consumed moderately. Suffice to say, medical experts continue to study lifestyle, drinking behaviour and the true effects of alcohol on cholesterol levels.
More than 38,000 men were tracked and examined over 12 years in a study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study revealed that moderate drinkers were about 30% to 35% less likely to have had a heart attack compared to non-drinkers.
Revelations like this are nothing new. It's long been speculated that some level of alcohol or wine consumption could be good for lowering cholesterol levels.
"Adulting" can be hard.
So, if you are not willing to give up the few relaxing sips on a Friday night, there’s a way to enjoy your drinks without ruining your diet or health.
So, if you are not willing to give up the few relaxing sips on a Friday night, there’s a way to enjoy your drinks without ruining your diet or health. You can also read up this article on the myths and facts of cholesterol.
Have 1 to 2 drinks of a day
Set a goal and drink in moderation
Don’t drink on an empty stomach
Choose your drinks well
Reduce consumption of fatty and inflammatory foods or cutting out gluten
Detox after a heavy night
Include lots of fruits, vegetables, seafood, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, low-fat dairy products, and olive oil into your everyday diet
Monitor your health by going for regular tests
If you’re not in the habit of drinking now, don’t start even if you’re doing so for health reasons
It has been suggested that red wine contains more cardiovascular benefits than other types of alcohol like beer, hard liquor, and other spirits. The international community has found that, when drank in moderation, wine-drinking helps with conditions and diseases like:
Coronary heart diseases
Type 2 Diabetes
Red wine is said to contain resveratrol which is believed to prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL, and prevent blood clots. It also contains polyphenols that could relax blood vessel walls and prevent the oxidation of LDL (the bad cholesterol).
The interesting thing is that it was found that moderate drinking of wine every day brings better health benefits than drinking only once or twice a week.
Regular consumption of polyphenol-rich food is thought to boost digestion and brain function, protect against heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and certain types of Cancers. However, please take note that the amount of polyphenols found in alcohol, regardless of type, is almost negligible compared to what you would normally find in whole plant foods.
The good news is that there is no cholesterol in beer. The bad news is that consumption of beer raises your triglyceride level which is linked to Lipid Disorders. In those ice, cold pints of beer are carbohydrates and alcohol that raises your triglyceride levels very quickly.
That is how beer earned its nickname ‘liquid bread’.
Beer typically contains barley malt, yeast, and hops, as well as phytosterols which are positive health-benefiting plant compounds that bind cholesterol and help get it out of your bloodstream. According to a Harvard study, beer contains slightly lower levels of phenolic compounds, quercetin, epicatechins, and garlic acid than red wine.
While some argue that drinking beer does NOT lower your cholesterol level because the average sterols found in a mug of beer is too low to have much of an effect on reducing your cholesterol level, other researchers suggest that moderate consumption of beer can reduce cholesterol levels in both your liver and deposits in the aorta.
It is worth mentioning that the extent and what those cholesterol-altering compounds are are yet to be fully determined and understood.
We’re now talking about the hard stuff like whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila...and the truth is, in its original form, most of them are cholesterol-free. But consider this - do we usually drink hard liquor in its original form?
Most of the time, these hard liquor are mixed with other juices and concoctions to flavour them up to create trendy drinks. When taken together, they will naturally affect the level of triglyceride in your bloodstream because of the extra sugar in them.
Chances are when you’re considering drinking hard liquor, it’s a cocktail.
So, will drinking hard liquor help with your cholesterol level? Maybe not.
The truth of the matter is that the positive effects of consuming alcohol regularly is minimal. You can easily increase your daily servings of tea, coffee, berries, onions, or apples and get a higher amount of polyphenols than with a glass of wine.
Focus, instead, on your drinking patterns.
Of course, it’s no big deal if you go out with your colleagues, bosses, business partners, friends, or acquaintances for dinner to enjoy a good meal and some drinks. So long as there’s some form of control over your drinking patterns and behaviour, you are in the safe zone.
If you're wondering what the different levels of drinking are, they're loosely defined as follows:
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, adults drinking 2 or fewer drinks a day and women drinking 1 or fewer drinks a day are considered moderate drinkers.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines the binge drinking pattern to be a habit of drinking that brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher. To a normal adult, this is equivalent to 5 or more drinks for a male, and 4 or more drinks for females within a 2-hour period.
The NIAAA defines heavy drinking as the act of consuming more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks per week for men. For women, the bar is set at consuming more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 drinks per week. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy drinking as binge drinking on 5 or more days in a month.
Of all the cholesterol-lowering drugs in the market today, statins are the most widely used. These drugs, however, do not come without side effects. How they affect you when you drink alcohol while on medication is subjective.
Statins are known to interfere with your body’s production of LDL, the bad cholesterol when diet and exercise have proven futile. However, on the other hand, statins may also increase liver enzymes production and risk liver damage, although instances are rare.
To err on the side of caution, if you’re on medication to control your cholesterol, it is best to consult with your physician or call a doctor for regular tests or advice. When you’re drinking and taking cholesterol medication, you may also experience:
Poor blood glucose management
Letting your doctor know about your alcohol consumption and lifestyle, especially if it involves work responsibilities, is your best bet. This way, your doctor will help you find alternatives and monitor your liver function more closely.
If you intend to keep your cholesterol level under control, improve your lifestyle instead by eating a more balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and keeping in close touch with your healthcare provider.
Sign up for Speedoc’s CDHM™ for Cholesterol Management and let us help you monitor and manage your cholesterol level. You can then sip with worry.