Taking Alcohol in smaller amaounts

According to researchers, they may be able to explain why moderate drinking is good for the heart since its primary effects are not related to blood changes, as was previously believed, but rather to how alcohol affects the brain.

However, experts claim they aren't urging people to drink since alcohol also increases the risk of cancer at any level. Understanding this process may instead suggest healthy approaches, such as exercise or meditation, to provide the same effect.

Large epidemiological studies have demonstrated for decades that people who drink moderately—less than one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men—have lower risks of serious cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes than both those who drink more and those who abstain from alcohol entirely.

However, scientists have never pinpointed the exact cause of this. Alcohol seems to enhance levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and drinkers have lower blood levels of fibrinogen, a sticky protein that may lessen the risk of life-threatening clots.

Alcohol may also improve insulin sensitivity in modest doses. These, however, don't appear to adequately explain the advantage.

As a result, a group of cardiologists in Boston decided to focus their attention elsewhere: the brain.

Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, the study's principal author and co-director of the Cardiovascular Imaging Research Centre at Massachusetts General Hospital, observed that after consuming some alcohol, you feel comfortable before you get drunk.

According to him, the first impact that individuals experience from short-term drinking is a little distressing.

Tawakol and his colleagues examined thousands of participants in the Mass General Brigham Biobank's drinking patterns for the research.

Even after controlling for genetic, behavioural, and other risk variables, they discovered that people who had one to 14 drinks per week were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who consumed less than one drink per week.

They also looked at brain scans of hundreds of these individuals and discovered that those who drank little to moderately had fewer stress responses in the amygdala, which is the area of the brain responsible for processing fear and danger, as well as fewer heart attacks and strokes.

"We discovered that the brain alterations in light to moderate drinkers accounted for a significant amount of the beneficial cardiac effects, according to Tawakol.

People with a history of worry reap the advantages more often than others.

According to Tawakol, alcohol was twice as beneficial in preventing significant adverse cardiac events in those who were stressed or anxious. It was about 20% in the majority of patients, but among those who had previously experienced anxiety, the relative risk was reduced by 40%.

Tawakol studies a brain region known as the stress neural network, which is centred on the amygdala. The sympathetic nervous system is activated by an overactive amygdala, preparing the body for a fight-or-flight reaction. Inflammation rises as a result, raising blood pressure. Additionally, certain neurons are triggered throughout the process, which causes the bone marrow to produce additional pro-inflammatory cells.

Cortisol, which instructs the body to store fat and raises the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and adrenaline, which further raises blood pressure, are released when the endocrine system is active. This chain of events may eventually increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Light drinkers' brain scans revealed noticeably less amygdala activity than did neither non-drinkers nor heavy drinkers, according to Tawakol, even though they had fasted before the scans and had no alcohol in their systems. This finding suggests that light drinking may still have an impact after the buzz wears off.

However, the researchers discovered that drinking in any quantity increased the chance of cancer, so it's critical to identify stress-reduction strategies that don't use alcohol.

Tawakol said that there is no ideal level of alcohol use for enhancing health since at the same level of alcohol that was "protective" against cardiovascular disease, we saw a comparable rise in cancer risk.

He said that meditation and exercise are two alternatives to mild drinking for lowering stress. One day, there could be a medication that might also lessen the effects of stress on the body.

There has been several studies on meditation, and they have shown that it has a significant influence on the stress neural network systems. If the downstream components of meditation are sufficiently diminished, studies are being done to see if this will lessen the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.

"Exercise has well-known effects on the brain but, in particular, has a very nice, dose-related effect on the stress neural network," he said.

The study's techniques and message received criticism from several specialists who weren't engaged in it.

Professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, Naveed Sattar, remarked, "This complex paper tries to work out why moderate alcohol may be associated with lower heart attack risks."

The problem, according to Sattar, is that we already know that drinking alcohol at any level raises the risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality.

"The notion of improved heart health with light to moderate alcohol use is deceptive and reinforces long-held illusions that we need to get over. Therefore, focusing solely on one minor component, even if correct, creates a false impression."

University of Glasgow professor of public health Petra Meier observed that the research can only demonstrate relationships. It cannot be established that alcohol was the cause of light drinkers' apparent reduction in brain stress.

"There are many factors, including the fact that abstainers and light-to-moderate drinkers vary in a variety of ways from one another. These variations help to explain why moderate alcohol use seems to be linked to favourable health outcomes without alcohol use being the primary cause," according to a statement from Meier.

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