When it comes to assessing the healthfulness of alcohol, it seems as if the world just can't agree. Some studies purport that the consumption of certain alcohols can actually boast health benefits. Opposing schools of thought—and many a strict diet plan—argue that alcohol in any measure has detrimental effects. In case you're still wondering whether or not to take advantage of that happy hour special, or indulge in that pour of pinot noir with dinner, a new study sheds some light on the relationship between alcohol and heart health.
A research team in the UK has quantified the exact amount of alcohol you can drink each week—and still be healthy. In fact, their findings, highlighted in Live Science and published in The BMJ, suggest it may even be in your best interest to go ahead and incorporate alcohol into your diet from time to time. Steven Bell, an epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge in England, and his team analyzed the electronic medical records of nearly two million people in the UK, classifying them into the categories of nondrinkers, former drinkers, occasional drinkers, moderate drinkers, and heavy drinkers. During a follow-up period of approximately six years, the researchers examined the health records to see if the patients in the study had suffered from any of 12 heart problems. The findings were quite surprising—and promising for any health-minded individual who doesn't want to give up booze.
The study found that there were no heart conditions—including heart attack, heart failure, or heart disease-related chest pain—for which nondrinkers had the lowest risk. Furthermore, moderate drinkers were actually less likely to be diagnosed with several heart-related ailments such as heart failure, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. So just how much alcohol is deemed as "moderate drinking"? The researchers used the National Health Services guidelines to determine that moderate drinking entails no more than 14 "units" of alcohol per week—one unit defined as eight grams of pure alcohol (for some perspective, a pint of 5% ABV beer counts for three units, and a standard glass of wine is equal to around two). If you do the math, this means that according to this study, the ideal amount of alcohol you should be consuming to be healthy is around five beers or seven glasses of wine per week. Cheers to that!