In scientific studies, alcoholic beverages forever flip-flop between healthy and unhealthy. While it’s clear that too much alcohol is bad for the body and the brain, every so often, the notion that moderate or small amounts of alcohol — say, a glass of red wine a day — can do a body good pops up. Today is one of those days.
A team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mount Sinai in New York found alcohol’s relaxing effects on the brain eased the stress on the heart. The authors also acknowledged the already abundant amount of research connecting alcohol consumption with an increased risk of cancer. Here’s the nitty-gritty of the study, which was published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Thousands of participants enrolled in the Mass General Brigham Biobank offered data on their drinking habits. When they analyzed the data, the researchers found that folks who enjoyed one to 14 adult beverages weekly were less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those who drank less than once a week after adjusting for variables.
Further, brain scans of these participants revealed that light-to-moderate drinkers had less stressed amygdalas, the part of the brain that processes emotions, fear, and threats. For those with anxiety, these changes were even more pronounced.
So what does this mean for all of us living in a stress-filled world? Since numerous studies show that any amount of drinking raises an individual’s risk of cancer, finding other ways to massage your amygdala is crucial, and even the study notes this. Meditation and exercise, both of which have an ABV of 0.0 percent, are especially good at reducing stress.
It’s difficult to balance the benefits of alcohol’s destressing glow with its undeniable risks. While alcohol comes with health benefits, it will never be risk-free. Exercise and meditation? Those do the trick.