Life Extension Update
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The results of recent studies suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, in a meta-analysis published in the December 11, 2006 issue of AMA journal Archives of Internal Medicine, investigators at the Research Laboratories of the Catholic University of Campobasso in Italy concluded that moderate drinking is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality over the time periods examined.
Augusto Di Castelnuovo and colleagues reviewed 34 studies that examined the effects of the drinking habits of over a million individuals on all-cause mortality. Although excessive alcohol consumption was shown to increase mortality during the periods studied, there was a reduction among men in deaths from all causes associated with drinking two to four drinks per day. For women, the protective effect ended above two drinks per day. "It might be a fact linked to the metabolism,” explained Licia Iacoviello, who is the head of the Laboratory of Genetic and Environmental Epidemiology where the research was conducted. “We know that women metabolize alcohol in a different way and the blood concentration reaches higher levels. Therefore, consuming more than two doses might lead to several harmful effects, such as liver diseases or increased risk of certain forms of tumor".
Although researchers have proposed that the protective effect of moderate drinking may be due to associated lifestyle factors, the authors of the current study found that even after controlling for these factors the benefit associated with moderate alcohol consumption remained. "We’ve carefully examined this aspect, Di Castelnuovo stated. “Our data suggest that, even considering all main confounding factors (as dietary habits, physical activity or the health of people studied), a moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages keeps on showing a real positive effect".
The review also determined that the protective benefit of alcohol is greater for European than American men, which could be explained by the way in which alcohol is consumed, since European men are likelier than Americans to drink wine with a meal. "The core of this study is not just about alcohol,” Catholic University Research Laboratories director Giovanni de Gaetano stated. “It is also the way we drink that makes the difference: little amounts, preferably during meals, this appears to be the right way. This is another feature of the Mediterranean diet, where alcohol, wine above all, is the ideal partner of a dinner or lunch, but that’s all: the rest of the day must be absolutely alcohol-free. The message carried by scientific studies like ours is simple: alcohol can be a respectful guest on our table, but it is good just when it goes with a healthy lifestyle, where moderation leads us toward a consumption inspired by quality not by quantity.”
The consumption of alcohol results in the formation of two very toxic compounds, acetaldehyde and malondialdehyde. These compounds generate massive free-radical damage to cells throughout the body. The free-radical damage generated by these alcohol metabolites creates an effect in the body similar to that caused by radiation poisoning. That is the reason why people feel so sick the day after consuming too much alcohol. If the proper combination of antioxidants is taken at the time the alcohol is consumed or before the inebriated individual goes to bed, the hangover and much of the cellular damage caused by alcohol may be prevented.
Nutrients that neutralize alcohol byproducts and protect cells against the damaging effects of alcohol include vitamin C, vitamin B1, the amino acids S-allyl-cysteine and glutathione, vitamin E, and selenium (Sprince et al. 1975; Hell et al. 1976; Loguercio et al. 1993; van Zandwijk 1995; Marotta et al. 2001). There are several commercial preparations that can be taken at the time the alcohol is consumed or before bedtime to help prevent a hangover. One of these is called Anti-Alcohol Antioxidants. The ingredients in this formula will help prevent hangover while providing protection against the damaging byproducts of alcohol metabolism.
Those who drink routinely might consider taking at least 500 mg a day of a special milk thistle extract called silibinin, which may have a protective effect on the liver (Flora et al. 1998).
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