Alcohol and Your Health

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Put yourself to the test with this quaffer’s quiz about alcohol and your health, from The Dish: On Eating Healthy and Feeling Fabulous!, by Carolyn O’Neil, M.S., R.D., and Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D.

True or False
  1. Alcohol is a stimulant
  2. If you eat before you drink, you won’t get drunk.
  3. Men and women handle alcohol the same.
  4. White wine is a good choice if you want a drink with less alcohol.
  5. Light beer has less of a kick than regular beer.
  6. As long as you average a drink or two a day, it doesn’t matter how much you drink on any given night on the town.
  7. Red wine is the healthiest of all alcohol choices.

Look Out Below

  1. False! You may feel energized after that first drink, but the fact is, alcohol is a drug that acts as a depressant, like a tranquilizer or a sleeping pill, and it can lead to an unattractive lack of coordination and personality changes (and not usually for the better). Remember, alcohol is moderation is okay, but it’s ultimately a gamble —  the more you drink, the higher the health stakes.
  2. False! Food doesn’t prevent alcohol from being absorbed, but it does slow it down.  The result: That drink goes “to your head” more slowly; the alcohol still gets there, just at a slower pace.
  3. False! Alcohol has more of an effect on us women than men. Why? As women, we tend to be smaller and have less body water, so drink for drink, we tend to develop higher blood concentrations of alcohol and get tipsy quicker (and fail the breathalyzer test earlier in the evening) than a man who drinks the same amount.
  4. False! A 5-ounce glass of wine has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of eighty-proof spirits or one 12-ounce beer. So, a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer, for that matter, will have the same effect as a straight shot of scotch.
  5. False! Light beers have slightly less alcohol and fewer calories. But while the calories may be one-third lower, there’s actually little difference in alcohol content. What light beers dish up is a weak-flavored, low-calorie beer with almost the same alcohol kick as regular beer.
  6. False! The health benefits of alcohol are linked with one to two drinks per day. They can’t be “saved up” over time and consumed in one-day, party-hearty, let ‘er rip binge. Some experts consider more than three drinks in one sitting to be binge drinking. And binges do more harm than good; they can cause your blood pressure to soar, not to mention unleash a deadly decline in your driving skills!
  7. False! While it’s true that substances in red wine, such as polyphenols and flavonoids that come from grape skins, are heart-healthy (polyphenols help promote healthy blood vessels and flavonoids are strong antioxidants, which protect our cells from damage), better health and longer life are linked with moderate consumption of all kinds of alcohol. Even beer contains B vitamins that may aid in prevention of heart disease.

How’d You Do?
1-2 You may not be maximizing the health benefits of alcohol and avoiding its pitfalls. Go back and sip on the info in the answers.
3-4 Review and impress your friends with your alcohol and health know-how.
5-7 Cheers! Prost! Salud! A votre santé! To your potent potable prowess!

Carolyn O’Neil, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian who is best known for her award-winning national and inter-national reporting on food, nutrition, and cuisine as the senior correspondent and host of CNN’s On the Menu and CNN Travel Now. Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D., a registered dietitian, has been writing about food, nutrition, and health for over fifteen years. She is the author and editor of seven other books, the associate editor for and a regular writer for the American Botanical Council. They are the authors of The Dish: On Eating Healthy and Feeling Fabulous! (Copyright © 2004 Carolyn O’Neil and Densie Webb).


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