Is Alcohol Toxic? (How to Choose Safe Options & Amounts)
Wellness Mama | January, 2018
Let’s talk about alcohol for a minute… On the one hand, blue zone studies show that most healthy populations consume moderate amounts of alcohol (usually wine). Yet, other researchers (and my mother-in-law) call alcohol toxic and say it should be avoided at all costs.
So who is right?
Turns out… they are both partially correct. To understand why, we have to understand some basic definitions so we can delve into the research. Hang with me… I’ll explain at the end why I personally choose to drink low-alcohol wines in moderation and consider this healthy.
When we talk about alcohol, most often, we are referring to the broad category of drinkable liquids like wine, beer and liquor. Ethanol is the active ingredient in these liquids and is the actual “alcohol” we are referring to. Ethanol is responsible for the symptoms of intoxication and the potentially harmful effects on the body.
To answer this question, we must understand what a toxin actually is. The terms “toxin” and “poison” are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. The term “toxin” is not a clinical definition. When it comes to toxicity, the dose makes the poison.
As an example, some things are immediately and obviously poisonous or venomous. Think spider bite, snake bite, or cyanide. Yet, almost any natural substance can be both toxic or safe… depending on the dose.
Don’t believe me? One atom of plutonium (a highly dangerous substance) is not fatal. Yet three gallons of water (a vital substance for life) consumed in a short amount of time can be fatal.
This is why toxicity is defined by the level of the substance found in the body, not by the substance itself.