Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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HomeViewpointsSilva MirovicsDoes alcohol fit into a WFPB lifestyle?

Does alcohol fit into a WFPB lifestyle?

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Honestly, I can’t tell you whether to keep drinking or not. But I can share some information with you about the positives and negatives of alcohol consumption. Then it’s up to you to make your own decision about how much you will drink. Or, perhaps, you may decide it’s not for you and doesn’t fit into your lifestyle at all.

The good news

The residue of alcohol has been discovered in ceramic bowls dating back to approximately 7000 BCE.  Humans have consumed alcohol for thousands of years and continue to drink for many different reasons. 

For starters, it is a socially acceptable pastime. 

You catch up with your co-workers on a Friday afternoon, or friends on the weekend, as a way to relax and unwind from the week.  You enjoy good wine with a lovely dinner, or a glass of bubbly at a wedding. 

Seems quite harmless

Alcohol forms part of tradition, too. There are religious ceremonies and cultural traditions that involve alcohol, and have done for centuries. 

Let’s not forget about supporting all the artisan beer and gin makers out there. Boutique wineries, craft breweries, and artisanal spirits are very popular and usually created with top-notch ingredients and loads of passion. 

Alcohol is legal, heavily promoted, usually expensive, often mass-produced, and marketed as cool, sophisticated and trendy. It is portrayed as something to help you chill out and, paradoxically, pump you up to get the party started. 

So far so good.

The not-so-good news

However, more and more studies point to the fact that alcohol contributes significantly to the burden of disease. 

A 2017 study observed that alcohol causes cognitive decline through its neuro-inflammatory and neuro-degenerative properties. In 2021 researchers analysed the data from nearly 5 million people from a multitude of studies. They found that just one glass a day was linked to reduced grey matter.  Grey matter is tissue within your brain and central nervous system that controls movement, emotions and memory. Their conclusion?  No amount of alcohol should be considered ‘safe’.

The Seventh Day Adventists of Linda Loma, California, are amongst some of the longest-lived people in the world.  They eat a plant-based diet, exercise regularly, and never smoke or drink.  Their research states that alcohol is not safe and is considered one of the leading causes of preventable death. 

What about red wine, though?

The truth about red wine

Yes, it is true:  Grapes are rich in antioxidants and resveratrol.  But hold on a minute.  Let’s break this down. 

Grapevines produce antioxidants and other compounds that protect them from disease, and one of these is a naturally occurring fungicide called resveratrol. Resveratrol has the potential to protect the brain from oxidative stress.  So, you might be thinking if alcohol causes oxidative stress, but resveratrol protects the brain from this, and resveratrol is in red wine, then it must be good for your brain to drink red wine.  

Well, the amount of resveratrol needed to protect the brain is quite a lot, as discovered in a 2016 UCLA study where participants took freeze-dried grape powder. They ingested between 500 – 2000 milligrams of resveratrol per day and found it had a positive impact on cognitive health. 

But your glass of red wine only contains about one milligram of resveratrol, so you would need to be drinking upward of 70 litres of red wine a day to consume enough resveratrol to improve your brain function. Something tells me that the damage caused by 70 litres of alcohol a day would far outweigh any positive gain.

Zero health benefits

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology has ranked alcohol as the “most harmful drug in Australia”  when ‘harm to self’ and ‘harm to others’ scores were added up.  Dr Erin Lalor, CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation states that there are no health benefits from consuming any amount of alcohol.

In fact, regular use of even small amounts of alcohol are linked to an increased risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Liver disease
  • Depression
  • Infertility
  • Stroke High blood pressure

Alcohol has also been found to trigger migraines, asthma and psoriasis. 

In his video titled “Can alcohol cause cancer” Dr Michael Greger shares with us that one of the first research papers to discuss the association of cancer with alcohol was published in 1903. 1903! That was 120 years ago. It seems crazy to think that we have known the risks for so long, yet alcohol is still easy to access, and no one thinks twice before drinking it.

Dr Greger shares a more recent study (2015) in the same video. The researchers conclude that alcohol increases the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, oesophageal, colorectal, liver, and breast cancers. Did you know they also discovered strong evidence linking alcohol to prostate and pancreatic cancers and melanoma? 

Breast cancer risk

There are many research studies that link alcohol consumption to an increased risk of breast cancer.  A 2015 study of more than 88,000 women and 47,000 men confirmed that just one drink a day increases cancer risk by 13%. The principal cancer risk was breast cancer for women and colorectal cancer for men.

Telomere length

Telomeres affect how quickly or slowly we age. 

You may have heard the term Biological and Chronological Ageing.  Your chronological age is your actual numerical age based on the year you were born.  You can’t change that.  But your biological age is based on how your body is ageing, and the good news is that this can be changed.  Telomere length is directly related to biological ageing.

So, what are telomeres exactly? 

At the end of each strand of DNA, you have these little caps called telomeres, and their job is to stop the DNA strands (which are found at the tips of your chromosomes) from unravelling. Imagine your DNA is a shoelace, and telomeres are those plastic tips at the end of the laces to stop the fabric from fraying and unravelling. 

Telomeres shorten due to inflammation and oxidative stress. Alcohol, processed meats, saturated fatty acids, sugar, and carbonated soft drinks are linked to this process. 

On the contrary, abstaining from alcohol and consuming a diet rich in whole plant foods reduces inflammation and oxidative stress and, you guessed it, lengthens telomeres.

Physical wellbeing

If you are trying to lose weight, then you may want to cut alcohol out completely. It has zero nutritional value and is high in empty calories. 

It can also trigger hormones that create feelings of hunger and stress. This, in turn, can lead you to making bad choices in regard to food and exercise. It’s a vicious cycle.  Green smoothies, kale salad and an early morning jog rarely go hand-in-hand with late-night benders, or even a couple of wines and a Netflix movie.

The spiritual path

If you are on a path of self-awareness and an enlightened existence, then you are no doubt seeking to raise your energy and vibration with practices that nourish your body, mind and soul.

Alcohol may feel like it gives you a buzz, freeing you and liberating your senses in some way. But it is numbing your mind and keeping your vibrational frequency low.

Addiction

It is not uncommon for many to hide behind the drink. While this article does not have the capacity to discuss why people drink, I encourage any reader who feels they use alcohol as a crutch to seek help from a doctor, therapist or coach. 

I would ask anyone who has “just one drink a day” to consider this seemingly harmless daily routine as a sign of addiction. 

Abstaining from alcohol sounds like a good idea, but I know how difficult that can be in reality.  Many of us enjoy a glass of red wine when out to dinner or a sparkling wine during celebrations. I know I do. 

But after reading all the research, I feel more inclined to cease drinking altogether. I struggle to find a place where alcohol can fit into my spiritual and WFPB lifestyle.  

Cheers to that.

Silva Mirovics
Silva Mirovicshttps://wordsbysilva.com
Silva Mirovics is a Melbourne based writer, yoga teacher, vegan and owner of wordsbysilva.com. She has a degree in health science and a research Masters in |Gerontoloby
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