Provision #489: Alluring Alcohol

Laser Provision

Everyone has probably heard about the alleged health benefits of alcoholic beverages. Before you run out to the package store, however, you may want to read this Provision. It’s true that some people may benefit from the consumption of no more than one alcoholic drink every day or every other day with their evening meal. But we still have to pay attention to our weight, fitness, and stress levels. Plus there are some people who should never drink at all. And the alleged health benefits are far from being fully understood. Read on to sort out the known and the unknown.

LifeTrek Provision

After writing a Provision on the health benefits of consuming small amounts of dark, organic, fair-trade, shade-grown, non-alkalized, and additive-free chocolate with no hydrogenated fats, I became a very popular guy. I heard from people, who I didn’t even know were reading Provisions, about how much they learned and how glad they were to be able to include chocolate in their diets. I had the same response to my Provision on extra virgin coconut oil. People are always so responsive to permission-giving messages!

The danger, as I mentioned in those Provisions, is that chocolate and coconut (to mention only two) are in the category of addictive foods. Many people are hard pressed to stop at small amounts. They are also energy-dense foods, which means they pack a lot of calories or kilojoules in a small package. It’s easy to gain weight on chocolate and coconut, which overshadows any health benefits those foods may offer. As I make plain in those Provisions and in the description of our Optimal Wellness Prototype, such foods should be avoided completely if they lead to weight gain.

Today we turn to an even more dangerous food, or in this case a beverage: alcohol. It’s not even on the radar screen when it comes to our Optimal Wellness Prototype, because of the health risks associated with its consumption. Remember the mantra: drink no calories. Not only are alcoholic beverages energy-dense (almost double that of fat-based drinks such as dairy and soy, and almost triple that of sugar-based drinks such as juice, soda, and sports drinks), they are also legendary for their ability to impair judgment, responsibility, inhibitions, communication, and coordination.

They do that in part thanks to their ability to pass directly through the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) and Blood-Brain (BB) barriers, without first being digested in the GI tract. We have spoken about this problem before, since many people • perhaps even most people • are genetically susceptible to the same thing happening with the lectins in legumes and grains. Although beans and grains are not known for making people tipsy, they too cause health problems (most notably autoimmune disorders) when their macro and micro-nutrients start floating around in the rest of the body without being fully digested. Something there is that doesn’t like a leaky gut.

Alcohol (specifically ethyl alcohol) leaks through the GI and BB barriers almost instantly, as anyone knows who has ever tried a strong shot of distilled spirits. The body is so unable to defend itself against alcohol, that it begins entering the circulatory system while still in our mouths. It’s dangerous yet alluring stuff that can easily lead to intoxication, unconsciousness, and even death. For those at risk of drinking more than one drink in a day, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether.

So why talk about alcohol at all in our discussion on Optimal Wellness? For at least two reasons. One is that most people drink alcoholic beverages. In Europe and North America, for example, it is estimated that between 50%-75% of the people drink alcoholic beverages at least once a month. To not write about alcohol is to not address a very common habit. Another reason to write about alcohol is that we constantly read headlines and news stories touting the alleged health benefits of alcohol. Consider the following excerpted headlines and reports just from the past few months:

Drink Up, Men: Moderate drinking linked to better heart health, study says

More good news for drinkers: A Harvard study has linked moderate alcohol consumption to a 40 percent reduction in the rate of heart attacks in men. The study was published on October 23, 2006 in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It found that healthy men who consumed an average of one-half to two drinks per day were 40 to 60 percent less likely to have heart attacks than their tee-totaling or heavier-drinking colleagues. The type of alcoholic beverage consumed didn’t matter; the amount consumed was more important in predicting risk of heart attacks. (The Harvard Crimson)

Cheers! Health Benefits of Beer

It’s not what you drink; its how much you drink that determines the benefits of alcohol. More evidence has appeared that proves that regardless of your drink of choice, you can reap some health advantages•if you drink moderately. (eDiets.com)

Light to Moderate Alcohol Consumption Improves Lifespan and Heart Health

If you enjoy an evening cocktail or a glass of wine with dinner you’ve probably been toasting the research findings that light to moderate alcohol consumption contributes to a longer life and a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and heart failure. In an article published in the July 24, 2006 Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that light to moderate alcohol consumption (1-7 drinks per week) significantly reduces the risks of death, heart attack, angina, and heart failure. Exactly how alcohol produces these benefits remains a mystery. (NYU Medical Center)

Then there are those related stories which find special health benefits in certain kinds of alcoholic beverages. For example:

Another Study, Another Reason to Drink Red Wine

Scientists have found another clue to explain why red wine may be good for you, identifying substances in vin rouge that appear to be associated with increased longevity in parts of France. Researchers have long been fascinated by the ‘French paradox’ • the fact that French people tend to have relatively few heart attacks despite a rich diet • and many studies have suggested that a glass or two of red wine every day is beneficial.

Recently, attention focused on a substance called resveratrol, which research showed could help laboratory mice live longer when taken in high doses. But resveratrol occurs in relatively low levels in wine, meaning people would have to drink hundreds of glasses a day to enjoy any possible benefits. In the latest research, Roger Corder of Queen Mary’s School of Medicine in London and colleagues analyzed various components of red wine. They found that substances called procyanidins appeared to have the most potent beneficial effect on the cells that enable arteries to power the heart.

Moreover, the researchers discovered that levels of procyanidins were highest in red wines produced in southwestern France, where French men tend to live the longest, according to a report in November 30, 2006 issue of the journal Nature. The winemakers of that region tend to use more traditional techniques in which Tannat grapes are soaked with their seeds longer, boosting the procyanidins. The research suggests that one or two glasses a day of cabernet sauvignon or other Madiran wines made with similar grapes and methods would be enough to get the health benefits, Corder said.

Procyanidins are also found in dark chocolate, apples and cranberries. (Washington Post)

Stories like those can make people put down their newspapers and head directly out to the liquor store! It’s another one of those permission-giving responses. These stories can also make people head out to buy supplements containing resveratrol, procyanidins, or other co-factors. Before you reach for your car keys and wallet, however, consider the inherent problem with all studies of alcohol consumption: there’s no way to rule out other variables. Was alcohol, resveratrol, procyanidins, or something else • like diet and lifestyle — the cause, the effect, or an epiphenomenon of the study? There’s no way to know for sure.

Especially when it comes to most younger people. However alcohol works, it appears to work better with age. A review of the literature suggests that almost no one under the age of 45 needs to drink alcohol at all from the standpoint of Optimal Wellness. The risks far outweigh the benefits, since most younger people are generally at low risk of heart disease or chronic, age-related conditions. Controlling weight, fitness, and stress levels are everyone’s first line of defense.

For those over the age of 45, on the other hand, or for those at higher risk of heart disease, consuming one alcoholic drink every day or every other day with the evening meal may be health promoting. To quote a University of Florida news release:

Alcohol Benefits

Older adults who enjoy a few alcoholic beverages each week can potentially reduce their risk of heart disease or death by about 25 percent. That’s the finding of a University of Florida study that shows moderate alcohol consumption (7 or fewer drinks per week) can cut the risk of a heart attack or death thanks to cellular or genetic interactions in the body.

“According to the results of our study,” concludes lead researcher Dr. Cinzia Maraldi, “light to moderate alcohol intake seems to have a protective effect on cardiovascular disease. If there are no medical conditions that preclude from alcohol intake and in the context of adequate treatment of cardiovascular risk factors, I would suggest light to moderate alcohol consumption seems to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

In fact, research shows those protective effects go away when seniors have more than seven drinks per week. (University of Florida News)

To determine your risk of heart disease in the next 10 years, visit the American Heart Association’s website and use their Cardiovascular Disease Risk Calculator. If your risk is higher than 4%, you may want to lower your risk by following the LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype and by talking with your doctor about other interventions, including the consumption of one alcoholic drink every day or every other day with the evening meal.

One reason your doctor may advise against the consumption of alcoholic beverages, or any other yeast-containing foods, is if you have an autoimmune disease such as Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Psoriasis, Thyroid Diseases (Graves’ and others), Lupus, HIV/AIDS, Scleroderma, Celiac Disease / Gluten Sensitivity, or Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. People suffering from such conditions at any age should avoid all alcoholic beverages since they are all produced by the fermentation of sugar (primarily fruit or grain) by yeast. When yeasts multiply they put out toxins that also penetrate right through the GI and BB barriers, causing serious health problems.

Another reason your doctor may advise against the consumption of alcoholic beverages is because of their tendency to promote depression, anxiety, and other debilitating conditions. If you are prone to such conditions, or if you notice such side effects, you may want to avoid the moderate consumption of alcohol.

When these and other reasons to abstain do not present themselves, the relative costs and benefits of consuming alcoholic beverage seem to tip in favor of moderate consumption for people over the age of 45, since that is the point at which the risk of cardiovascular disease begins to rise. Drinking 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits every day or every other day with the evening meal may be a heart-healthy practice, as we age.

As with all foods, organic is better than conventional even when it comes to alcohol. Artificial pesticides and fertilizers do not disappear through fermentation any more than they do through lactation or other beverage-producing processes.

That said, I would bring this back to where we began: when it comes to optimal wellness, no oneneeds to be drinking alcoholic beverages. The Prototype is quite healthy without them. Clean, filtered, water is always the beverage of choice, at any age. Maintaining healthy weight, fitness, and stress levels is always the first line of defense, at any age. But for those older adults at higher risk of heart disease who have no medical or personal reason to avoid alcohol, the moderate consumption of alcohol can apparently provide an extra edge on the trek of life.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you drink alcoholic beverages? How much and how often do you indulge? Are you under or over the age of 45? Do you suffer from any autoimmune or autoimmune-like diseases? What is your risk of heart disease? How could you get on the path to optimal wellness? Who could join you on the journey?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob..


Thanks for sharing the highlights of Amy’s journey with us through your recent Provision Click. Her story rings very true with our experience. My husband came out of seminary with a “let’s set the world on fire” approach; he went after it with all the passion and energy that a committed soul can muster. However, between some negative political experiences, at the national level, and the sheer pace of an active pastorate, he found himself suffering from physical exhaustion and emotional stress culminating in an anxiety depression disorder.

We have since moved on, but the continuing issues of work-life balance are always present, requiring minute by minute decisions to preserve one’s well-being. The LifeTrek coaches and the wonderful challenges of the weekly Provisions have been a source of great support to us. I am thankful you have been there and I am glad to learn of Amy’s presence on the team. I really appreciated her premier “words of wisdom” in The Provision. Signed, A LifeTrek Junkie.


Great article Amy Haas; thanks


Welcome Amy • best of the best to you!! 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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