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What would happen if you decide to drink alcohol while on a plant based diet? One might assume that beer is an entirely plant based food. In reality, beer often contains animal products. Sometimes animal products are used to brew alcoholic drinks, especially beer. If you are serious about being in excellent health, you might not want to drink alcohol.

On another level, moderate drinking can be neutral or healthy. It can be a fun way to socialize and get rid of stress. One can also easily find a bottle of beer made from plants only. Sometimes, a very healthy person drinks a moderate amount of alcohol. A diet that helps you reach ideal health may include some drinking.

Does beer include animal ingredients?

Not all beers are vegan. A vegan who wants to avoid animal foods entirely must be careful when they drink alcohol.

During the brewing process, beer has to be clarified. Clarifying the beer involves adding finings. Finings may or may not be vegan. Brewers often use moss as a fining. Brewers also use animal products such as gelatin or isinglass. Strict vegans must know what their beer contains.

Strict vegans avoid honey, which brewers use in many beers. Brewers also use sugar from milk to create beer. For these reasons, strict vegans might have to avoid many beers. However, many truly vegan beers exist. Brewers do not usually market vegan beers as vegan products. Many beers just happen to be created without using any animal products.

Health benefits of moderate alcohol

Even if one is not a strict vegan, they are avoiding meat and processed food for health reasons. If you drink alcohol, is it always bad for your health but relatively harmless in small quantities? Is there any evidence that drinking can benefit your health, or is that wishful thinking?

Thankfully, there is plenty of medical evidence in favor of moderate drinking. Like many other things, alcohol is good in small quantities and bad in large amounts. Beer and not just wine can benefit your physical and mental health.

Drink Alcohol and Protect Your Heart?

You may have heard that moderate drinking will prevent heart disease, and studies show that alcohol has a significant and not a small positive effect. Even for already healthy people that are unlikely to have heart attacks, two drinks per day can reduce the risk further. 

Medicine has entirely accepted alcohol’s protective effect on the heart since at least the 1980s, when a study of 50,000 health professionals found that alcohol halves the risk of heart disease [1]. The odds of a fatal heart attack was also reduced by about half, as was the odds of needing surgery. Two or more drinks a day protects the heart, according to this study.

More recent studies have confirmed the findings of previous decades. Moderate drinking protects against heart attacks. The positive benefit maxes out at three drinks per day.

Alcohol may protect the heart by its effects on cholesterol. Alcohol may raise HDL cholesterol, thereby lowering the LDL cholesterol that causes coronary disease. Blood tests also show that drinking alcohol reduces fibrinogen, which must also be positive for heart health.

Even a limited amount of alcohol raises triglycerides (blood fat), which is bad for the heart, but its effects on fibrinogen and cholesterol outweigh this. 

The combined effects of moderate drinking on cholesterol, fibrinogen, and blood fat should be enough to reduce the odds of heart disease by about 25% [2], with the actual decrease probably being more significant than that. 

Alcohol and lifespan

Some would argue that alcohol cannot raise lifespan. Arguably, the false idea that alcohol raises lifespan comes from sick people avoiding alcohol [3]. Moderate drinking might not benefit healthy people. However, most other studies disagree. Moderate drinking seems to raise a person’s lifespan even if everyone in the study is selected for health. 

Does alcohol increase your potential lifespan?

Just because alcohol is associated with a longer lifespan does not mean it causes it. Some would argue that moderate drinkers have other healthy habits that raise their lifespan. So, you need to consider that if drinking alcohol on a plant based diet.

According to a large early 2000s study of 124,000 persons, alcohol reduces deaths from heart attacks and reduces the death rate in general [4]. This study is significant because of strong evidence for the alcoholic drinks actually causing longer lifespans.

Even if you compare moderate drinkers to abstainers with similar diets and lifestyles, the moderate drinkers live longer. Therefore, most, although not the vast majority of the evidence is in favor of moderate drinking. At the very least, moderate drinking is not dangerous. One can drink moderately and be in far above average health.

One should keep in mind that excessive drinking is vastly worse for you than moderate drinking is good for you. Anyone who has ever been in the hospital for alcoholism has a life expectancy 24 or 28 years lower than the general population [5]. Heavy drinking can kill you regardless of what your other habits are. Moderate drinking will only boost your health and will not save you from unhealthy habits.

Beer and inflammation

While the best evidence in favor of moderate drinking deals with cardiovascular disease and overall death rates, beer may reduce inflammation as well. Inflammation is the cause of countless different chronic diseases, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. Beer often contains hops, which contains compounds that fight inflammation [6]. How much disease-fighting power there is in hops in not yet known.

A healthy plant based diet often contains many anti-inflammatory compounds. 

Health Consequences of Alcohol

Most of the evidence is in favor of moderate drinking being healthy. The evidence is even for moderate drinking actually causing and not merely being associated with better health. However, these studies deal with those who have roughly two drinks per day. Having four drinks per day is bad for your health.

Having more than a few drinks in a single day is a health risk. Moderate drinking is good for you only if we define moderate drinking narrowly.

Alcohol does vastly more harm than good to the world. Alcohol kills people all over the world, responsible for millions of deaths across the world each year [7]. The benefits of drinking are puny in comparison.

More Harm Than Good

Always keep in mind that one does not have to drink much to go beyond moderate drinking. Eating a plant based diet, exercise, and other good habits will not make up for heavy drinking. Alcohol can cause obesity. If the calories are not enough to lead to weight gain, regular drinking may lead to impulsive behavior, including eating a lot of low-quality food. Drinking calories may be a bad idea. Drinking calories does not satisfy hunger and leads to you eating more. 

Alcohol may lead to early dementia. A French study found that most people who experience dementia much earlier in life than is typical are heavy drinkers [8]. Heavy drinking is bad for brain health. Heavy drinking is repeatedly poisoning yourself, including your brain. 

Alcohol can also give you a stroke. Even if you do not have any heart problems, binge drinking (having more than four or six drinks in one day, even if you do not do this daily) raises the odds of a stroke by about 40% [9]. No one who is drinking heavily should think that they have an excellent diet. 

Alcohol is, of course, just as harmful to the liver as it is to the brain. If you drink regularly, fat deposits will build up in the liver and render it ineffective. The liver cleans the blood, and a poorly functioning liver can destroy your overall health. Since it weakens your immune system, alcohol can also contribute to tuberculosis, cancer, and pneumonia. 

Alcohol and Mental Health

Addictions can cause and not merely be caused my mental health issues. Substances that affect how you think can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain. These disruptions can reduce your mental health in the long run. 

Alcohol can increase stress and anxiety

Alcohol, in the long run, will worsen rather than treat stress and anxiety. This can cause a vicious circle where a person may drink alcohol to deal with stress, with the alcohol causing the stress. Only in the short run can alcohol make a person calmer and more energetic. In the long run, it will make them sluggish and nervous. 

Alcohol can lead to self-harm and suicide. In Scotland, about half of those who end up in the hospital for intentionally injuring themselves were using alcohol [10]. Alcohol can be a way to relax and become more social, but the reduced inhibitions can also be harmful or fatal. 

Red wine as an alternative to beer

Many or most of the health benefits when you drink alcohol come from the alcohol itself. However, red wine and not beer is the healthiest alcoholic drink you can find. One of the advantages of eating a plant based diet is that one consumes more polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants found in plant foods. Red wine is very high in polyphenols and therefore, should be part of a plant based diet. 

As a whole, moderate drinking is good for you, or at worst, is compatible with good health. It can be part of a whole foods plant based diet and even of a vegan diet. However, one must remember that moderate drinking is light drinking. Only one or two drinks a day is the right way to go. 




[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/014067369190542W


[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/014067369190542W


[3] https://www.jsad.com/doi/abs/10.15288/jsad.2016.77.185?journalCode=jsad


[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21594734


[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4402015/


[6] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mnfr.200800493


[7] https://ourworldindata.org/alcohol-consumption


[8] https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/a19676118/long-term-effects-of-alcohol/


[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18832741


[10] https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-mental-health/


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