Alcohol is among the most abused substances today, yet its effects on your body and health are evident. It leads to alcoholism, in addition to a host of other consequences on your mental and physical health – not to mention taking a massive toll on your relationships, similar to other drugs.
However, you may not be aware of the fact that alcohol does affect your cholesterol levels, which may bring a whole new perspective on the reasons why it is harmful to your long-term heart health. Even though the liver does the heavy task of filtering the alcohol from your blood, the effects will still be there to see – depending on how much and how frequently you drink.
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What is cholesterol?
This is an organic lipid substance that your body produces (you can also get it from food), and all animal cells synthesize it. Cholesterol on its own is not a bad thing, because the body needs it to maintain some of its functions, such as making cell membranes.
This does not mean all of it is good for you, as there are two kinds of cholesterol – LDL and HDL. The LDL, or low-density lipoproteins, is the ‘bad’ cholesterol because it builds up within the artery walls to form plaque. This plaque restricts the flow of blood to your heart and other parts of your body, leading to a stroke or a heart attack. The other type is the HDL, or high-density lipoproteins, which is the ‘good’ cholesterol and is needed by your body.
What are the healthy limits?
The ideal upper limit of your total cholesterol should be lower than 200 mg/dL, according to the NIH (National Institute of Health). If you have levels above 240 mg/dL, that is seen as too high.
In addition, the LDL cholesterol levels should be lower than 100 mg/dL, and the HDL should be more than 60 mg/dL. Another component of your cholesterol level is your triglycerides, and they should remain at low levels so that you protect yourself against heart disease.
What does alcohol have to do with cholesterol levels?
The good news is that alcohol does not have cholesterol within it – as long as it is in a pure state of liquor, wine, and beer. The trouble comes along when you mix alcoholic drinks with other substances, and this will determine the state of your heart health along with your frequency of drinking and the quantities of the alcohol.
Cholesterol in beer drinkers
Beer in itself does not have cholesterol, but you need to remember it does have carbohydrates, which can impact your triglyceride levels significantly. Another fact to remember is that beer often contains plant sterols, which are compounds that combine with cholesterol and help the body remove it. This comes with a drawback though, before you think it will help out your body immensely.
The more sensitive you are to the effects of alcohol and beer, the more triglycerides your body will have at the end of a drinking session – a factor you need to keep in mind.
Scientific research reveals that the levels of sterol in a beer are so low. Even when you drink a whole bottle, it cannot affect your heart health positively.
Liquor (such as gin, whiskey, and vodka) and cholesterol
These drinks are free of cholesterol, similar to beer. You need to remember something though – there is a rising trend of combining these drinks with some flavors, such as whiskey that is candy flavored. That will change the impact of the drinks on your cholesterol levels.
This fact is also the reality concerning many drinks such as mixed drinks and cocktails because they also contain high amounts of sugar in their ingredient composition. When sugar combines with alcohol, it can raise the levels of triglycerides significantly.
Cholesterol and wines
Among alcoholic drinks, wine is the one that has the most favorable reputation when it comes to talking about heart health, especially red wine. This is because it contains a plant sterol, known as resveratrol.
Research goes on to prove the importance of this particular sterol, as it reduces the chances of inflammation, and also stops chances of clotting, at least in the short term. The anti-inflammatory nature also contributes to increasing the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol.
Before you go drinking red wine every day, note that the positive effects of it in the long term are not clear. There is greater research that needs to be done to support this claim when it comes to heart complications.
It is important to consider the frequency and quantity of what you drink
Not all alcohols are created equal, so although wine, liquor, and beer will have varying degrees of effects on your cholesterol count, the heart is significantly affected by the frequency and amounts of your drinking – much more than your alcoholic choice.
Sticking to moderate drinking is the best option. The NIH defines this as two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women, so that you can get the positive benefits for your heart.
It is also interesting to note that medical research has shown moderate drinkers to have lesser chances of suffering from heart attacks, compared to people who do not drink. In addition, men who drink daily have lower risks of suffering from heart disease and stroke – as long as it is done in moderation. The speed of transporting various proteins through your bloodstream to various body parts is increased when the good cholesterol levels rise – thanks to moderate alcohol consumption.
When you drink more than the appropriate amounts, it will have the opposite effect though –it will increase both your triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which is bad news for your heart.
As much as moderate consumption of alcohol will not affect the body negatively in theory, you should discuss it with your doctor. Alcoholism and drug abuse and their subsequent withdrawals, such as heroin withdrawal, are very serious matters you should not take lightly, and you want to avoid them as much as possible – for the sake of your long-term heart health.
About The Author:
Nirdesh Singh has 10 years of experience in the IT sector. He decided to start his own development company in 2012 and founded Zedex Info Pvt Ltd. where he is director also. He is also co-founder of fashionbuzzer.com a fashion e-commerce portal in India.