Healthy Drinking News

Darcy O'Neil :: April 22, 2007 11:48 AM

Fruity CocktailRecently the news headlines have been reporting on some research that fruity cocktails may be healthy for you. This isn't the first study indicating health benefits from drinking alcohol in all its forms. The wine industry has been riding high on a wave of positive research and the beer industry is basking in some glowing research. But, the world of cocktails hasn't had much luck, until recently. The image associated with hard alcohol is still not very positive, but there may be hope on the horizon. Remember for anything alcohol related you should live by this statement; Drink Better, Not More.

The actual finding from the research study are as follows “The researchers, from Kasetsart University in Thailand and the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), report that treating the berries with naturally volatile compounds such as ethanol (alcohol), methyl jasmonate, and tea-tree oil boosted antioxidant activity, as measured by oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay and the DPPH (1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl) radical assay.”

So, what the hell does that mean? Well it means that in a beaker, when you use a standardized chemical test to measure anti-oxidant activity, ethanol exposed blackberries and strawberries have more ability to absorb more oxygen free radicals, compared to plain old blackberries and strawberries. In Vitro (meaning “in glass”) studies are extremely simplified observations when compared to In Vivo (meaning in a living cell) studies. They may not directly correlate to real world applications. i.e. this study may not have any meaningful value to a living person drinking a Goombay Smash or a fruity Maui Mai Tai.

The media has taken this story and put a twist on it, when the study was actually looking at how to better preserve frozen fruits. The study wasn't actually looking at whether cocktails have beneficial health effects, such as cancer fighting potential. In a study looking at health benefits of mixing fruit and ethanol they'd have to a do a very complicated research project. For example, they’d look at all of the enzymes in the mouth and stomach and determine whether any of these quench this increased anti-oxidant capacity. That is a lot of work, with no real world application. No healthcare professional is going to tell you to drink more alcohol, when eating another apple and walking 30 minutes a day would do a much better job, with less longterm risk.

So is there such a thing as healthy drinking?

This is my personal opinion, but I believe there is such a thing as healthy drinking. First it starts with responsibility, i.e. drink better, not more. The Art of Drink has always taken a quality over quantity point of view, where as some other blogs take the more is better approach (i.e drinking this whole bottle of alcohol will result in what kind of hangover?) Promoting getting drunk is why this industry gets such a negative image. Getting plastered is not healthy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a few wickedly bad hangovers from over indulgence, but those hangovers were spaced out by long periods of time. Doing it every weekend isn’t healthy. So what is healthy drinking?

  1. The social aspect of having a drink with friends is healthy.
  2. Low levels of alcohol consumption have some scientific results that indicate drinking can have positive health effects. These low levels mean two standard drinks a day for men and one standard drink a day for women.
  3. A varied diet is good for you and theoretically so should a varied drink list. Drinking Coors Light everyday probably doesn’t do anything for your health, but drinking a Stout one day, a cocktail the next and a glass of wine later in the week might be better. Plus there are mental benefits to changing what you eat and drink. It keeps your brain active.
  4. Like anything, over-indulgence is always bad.

Basically, moderation is key. Having a few drinks with a good group of friends is a great way to blow off steam. Ethanol helps relax a person, which in a group situation will hopefully result in laughter. This results in lower stress levels which probably has more health benefits than a fruity cocktail. Too much alcohol results in annoying people who increase stress levels on the people around them, which is bad. Drink Better, Not More.

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