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Good or Bad for You? 5 Confusing Facts about Alcohol

Aside from the occasional glass of antioxidant-rich red wine, drinking has long been held to be an unhealthy pastime - at least, until recent studies revealed that moderate drinking might actually keep you healthier than abstaining completely. Now an article in Good presents even more confusing evidence that drinking is both good and bad for you.

1. Drinking may increase your risk of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen - especially for women, for whom even moderate drinking is not advised in terms of cancer risk. A recent study suggested that binge drinking may be linked to pancreatic cancer in men.

2. Heavy drinkers outlive nondrinkers. Yes, moderate drinkers still live longer than both teetotallers and boozers, but an extremely comprehensive study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research discovered that downing the drinks may increase lifespan. It's possible that the stress-relieving properties of a good booze-up could account for this puzzling result. 

3. Alcohol shrinks your brain - not only figuratively, but literally. Whether or not you drink, your brain still shrinks as you get older. Scientists at Boston University study discovered the alcohol-shrinkage connection in 2008. While the decrease in size was small when compared to nondrinkers and former drinkers, it was still present. Women fared worse than men - even moderate female drinkers experienced shrinkage, whereas only hard-drinking men did. 

4. Moderate drinkers don't gain as much weight as nondrinkers. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston discovered this when 20,000 women aged 30 and over took part in a study lasting more than 10 years. Red wine drinkers, especially, stayed thinner than teetotallers, who actually gained the most weight of all the groups in the study. 

5. Occasional binge drinkers generally weigh more than moderate drinkers, heavy drinkers, or nondrinkers. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at drinking patterns in men and women: those people who drank a little bit every day gained the least weight. Those who drank a lot occasionally gained the most. 


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