Alcoholic Beverage: A Potion Or Poison Or Both

Dr. Richa Badola, AP (Food Technology), UCALS - Uttaranchal University, Dehradun. Rakesh Kumar Raman and Karaurapu Uma, Ph.D. Scholars, ICAR-NDRI, Karnal

2018-05-03 10:33:53



Alcohol consumption is always considered a taboo in Indian society. But like everything in nature, alcohol if consumed in moderation may have health benefits too. WHO defines low risk drinking for men and women as 10 drinks or less in week (2 drinks on average/day, but two alcohol free days in a week). Little amounts, preferably during meals appears to be the right way to consume/drink alcohol.

Before starting with the pros and cons of various alcoholic beverages, let us discuss briefly about alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is known to the humans from ancient times and basically ethanol or ethyl alcohol is consumed in the form of beverage. Alcoholic beverages are produced by the fermentation of grains, fruits, vegetables and plants. There are a variety of alcoholic beverages available in the market which vary in their raw material and alcohol content and can be broadly classified as beer (2-6% alcohol), wine (40-50% alcohol.) and liquor (spirits) (8-20% alcohol). Liquor includes various alcoholic beverages such as cider (4-8% alcohol), tequila (40% alcohol), rum (40% or more alcohol), brandy (40% or more alcohol), gin (40-47% alcohol), whiskey (40–50% alcohol), vodka (40–50% alcohol), etc. Most people drink for the stimulant effect, however if consumed in excess, it has depressant effect meaning slows down vital functions resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions and an inability to react quickly.

Health benefits of wine

Wine can be created from fermented grapes or other fruits. It can be broadly categorized as red, white, rose, sparkling and fortified wine.  Antioxidants, high resveratrol content, and pro-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory properties of wine can help with heart disease, immunity, improve memory and cognitive function and more. It is reported that ellagic acid found in dark red grapes (used to make red wine) can help people manage obesity and a metabolic fatty liver, which slows down the growth of fat cells and stops new ones from being created, which boosts the metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells. The antioxidants in red wine can help to reduce the risk of cold.

Health benefits of beer

Beer is created by fermenting any of a variety of starches including; malted barley, rice, wheat or maize. Just as it is advised to go redder with wine, go darker with beer to reap its benefits. Beer is packed with vitamin-B such as riboflavin and thiamin, and also rich in magnesium and calcium. Dark beers are known to have high iron content, which helps circulate oxygen better around the body. Xanthohumol found in beer could protect brain cells from damaging, thus slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. Beer’s high source of silicon content can help increase bone density. Also, moderate beer drinkers have reduced risk of kidney stones.

Health benefits of liquor

Liquors/ Spirits refer to those alcoholic drinks that have been distilled to make them stronger. Liquors are known to be stronger in alcohol and can help with weight loss, diseases and even a sore throat. When diluted, distilled spirits tends to improve a person’s tolerance to glucose. Additionally, these beverages, when consumed in moderation also enhance the body’s regulation of blood sugar in response to a person eating carbohydrates. Both of these effects on blood sugar can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Vodka can improve blood circulation as it helps more collateral vessels to develop, which helps connect the heart to the lungs.

Harms of alcoholic beverages:

If consumed in excess, alcoholic beverages can have following ill effects:

1. Loss of self-control: Alcohol drinking leads to lose of self-control on the body and thereby can lead to accidents.

2. Damage to liver: Heavy consumption can damage the body organs and systems especially liver, stomach and brain. It can also lead to cardiovascular troubles and blood pressure etc. So having protein rich diet is necessary to rejuvenate the liver.

3. Nerve damage: It causes slow and progressive degeneration of nervous system. Alcohol in chemical terms is highly lipophylic i.e. it can penetrate well into fatty tissues like brain. At high concentrations, it can itself damage the neurons.

4. Leads to obesity. It can lead to put on of excess weight. Alcohol by itself can form energy molecule ATP and provide calories to body. So other calorie generating food especially carbohydrates and fats are not used up. This leads to accumulation and weight gain.

5. Addictive: It is an addictive and people are prone to it which can lead to disturbance in normal life style.

6. Sedation and death: Alcohol is a sedative, moderate drinking is not a risk. But on further heavy consumption it can lead to coma and death.


Alcohol can be considered both potion and poison. Drinking small amounts, especially red wine, is associated with various health benefits. On the other hand, excess alcohol and alcohol addiction are linked to severe negative effects. It is not recommended that non-drinkers start drinking to avail these benefits, but if one enjoy alcoholic beverage consumption and can keep its level moderate, then by all means can continue to do so. However, if one drink excessively, or alcohol consumption causes problems in their life, then consider avoiding it as much as possible. Overall, moderation is the key.