Alcohol can be considered both a tonic and a poison. If you don’t drink alcohol, it is generally recommended to NOT start drinking for health benefits. However, if you already drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation.
A standard serving of wine is considered 5 ounces (12.5% alcohol), and a standard serving of hard liquor is considered 1.5 ounces. Keep in mind a “glass of wine” or a “shot” may be more than the standard size.
Some studies suggest drinking alcohol in the moderation dose, up to one drink per day for females and up to two drinks per day for men may offer some health benefits.
Drinking past the moderation dose has the opposite effect: it can have many negative health consequences.
Studies looking at the benefits of moderate alcohol intake suggest the ethanol from alcohol may offer benefit instead of other components in wine, beer or hard liquors.
Therefore, most studies suggest drinking any type of alcohol may offer some health benefits as long as it is done in the recommended moderation dose. Therefore, vodka is not necessarily better than wine or vice versa. Instead what appears to be the main concern with alcohol and health is the dose you are consuming.
Moderation benefits for heart health
According to a 2007 review article (1), the effect alcohol can have on heart health is a razor shape double edged sword.
Drinking below or up to the moderate level is associated protecting cardiovascular health. Moderate alcohol consumption may help improve insulin sensitivity and increase good HDL cholesterol levels.
Harvard Health (2) suggests data from about 100 studies have shown an inverse association between moderate drinking and risk of heart attack, stroke or death from all cardiovascular disease.
The alcohol component from either wine or vodka can be associated with heart health. The main factor that health professionals stress is keeping intake the recommended dose if you choose to drink.
The razor edge for heart health and alcohol, whatever form you choose to drink, is the amount you consume.
Drinking more than the daily moderate serving recommendation can increase risk for high blood pressure and increase risk for damaging the heart tissue.
Other potential health benefits from moderate intake of alcohol
Drinking alcohol up to the moderation amount has been associated with other health benefits.
Research from Nurses’ Health Study found gallstones and type 2 diabetes were less likely in people who drink in moderation compared to non alcohol drinkers.
On the other hand, people who were heavy drinkers did not have the lowered level of gallstones and type 2 diabetes.
How much you drink is more important than which kind of alcohol you choose
When comparing types of alcoholic drinks, the type of drink is not as important as the amount. Consistent research suggests the potential health benefits for drinking alcohol in moderation are not seen in higher alcohol consumption.
Excessive alcohol intake, whether from wine or vodka, can increase risk for: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and increase risk for certain cancers (3).
Drinking seven standard drink servings on one night is not the same as drinking one standard serving each night of the week.
Sticking with the moderation serving size is always recommended. Drinking more than this amount can have a difference between a potential positive effect to a harmful effect.
Vodka may be better than wine if drinking this type of alcohol helps you control your intake. However, if you tend to drink more with vodka, you may want to switch to wine for example or just cut out your alcohol intake all together.
Contraindications for drinking alcohol no matter the form
Even though there have been studies suggesting a possible benefit from moderate alcohol intake, drinking alcohol may not be recommended for your health even if you drink in moderation.
Alcohol can disrupt sleep and mental function. Alcohol may interact with various medications, so if you are on any medication you should speak with your doctor before drinking alcohol.
Drinking just 2 drinks a day instead of 1 per day for women may increase risk of breast cancer up to 41% according to research data from over 320,000 women.
Genetics can play a role in someone’s susceptibility for alcoholism or even affect how the body metabolizes alcohol. Therefore, if alcoholism runs in your family, it may be best to not drink alcohol.
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not drink alcohol. If you have medical conditions affecting the heart, digestive system, kidney or liver you should speak with your doctor before consuming any alcohol.
Because there are many factors that influence how alcohol affects the body, determination for drinking alcohol should be made on an individual basis between you and your healthcare team.
If you do not drink alcohol, it is not recommended to start drinking.
Conclusion: vodka or wine?
Wine is often associated as being a “healthy” choice because wine can be a source of antioxidants. While this is true, research studies looking at the benefit of drinking alcohol in moderation have found the potential benefit is from any alcohol source, not just wine.
Vodka has not been shown to have health benefit superior to wine or other alcohol sources. A serving of 1.5 ounces of 80 proof vodka compared to a 5ounce serving of wine is about the same.
What may be the determining factor between vodka and wine is which one is easier for you to monitor your intake?
The total amount of alcohol you consume is more of a determining factor than what kind of alcohol you consume. Drinking at or under the moderation guideline is recommended.
Drinking over the moderate amount can have the opposite effect regardless the source and may increase risk for: heart disease, stroke, liver disease and certain cancers.