Old wives’ tales and historical home remedies have prescribed whiskey as a cure-all for centuries: a hot toddy for a cold, a splash of whiskey to disinfect a wound, and a swig of bourbon to act as anesthesia. So, is whiskey good for you? Undoubtedly, modern medicine would have disproved these claims, right?
Wrong! Many recent studies have proven that a glass a whiskey can provide a variety of health benefits. The key is to stick to moderate consumption, which is defined as two shots a day for men, and one shot a day for women (who have slower metabolisms than men, on average).
We found scientific sources to prove that whiskey’s health benefits are more than just rumors. Keep reading to find out more! And get ready to be surprised by what you will learn.
If you’re about to start a serious weight loss regimen, you should know that beer is a big no-no. The average bottle of beer contains 150 to 200 calories, most of which come from carbs. The good news is you don’t have to give up drinking entirely—you just need to switch to whiskey!
A shot of whiskey only contains about 95 calories and has zero carbs and zero fat. Replacing a bottle of beer with a jigger of whiskey is an easy way to cut calories. Keep in mind that whiskey is stronger than beer, so you need to sip it slowly if you want to prolong your evening.
But be careful. Alcohol can also increase your appetite. On the positive side, whiskey isn’t as bad as clear liquors because it’s metabolized slower.
A review published in 2015 found no link between light to moderate alcohol consumption and obesity. So as long as you don’t overdo it, a glass of whiskey can be a great way to unwind with friends without cheating on your diet.
Reduced Risk of Dementia
Heavy drinking is known to cause memory loss, so it may come as a surprise that moderate drinking can prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. In an NIH study, researchers found that adults who consumed one to six glasses of whiskey a week were almost half as likely to suffer dementia than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.
And in adults already experiencing signs of dementia, the same amount of whiskey can slow the onset of serious symptoms by 30 to 40 percent. Be careful, though, because heavy drinking can cause the opposite effect.
Improved Heart Health
A Harvard study showed a connection between moderate alcohol consumption and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. It works because alcohol acts as a blood thinner, and affects the heart and blood the same way aspirin does. The study proved that moderate whiskey drinkers were 40 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-drinkers.
The downside, though, is that your risk increases dramatically if you’re a heavy drinker. Stick with one glass a night to reap the full benefits.
Diabetes Prevention and Management
Type 2 diabetes is becoming an epidemic in the United States. In 2015, it was reported that over 29 percent of the US population had Type 2, or “adult onset,” diabetes. While there are a lot of diet and exercise changes that can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, one stood out in particular—whiskey!
According to Diabetes.co.uk, whiskey and other hard spirits can reduce the chance of diabetes by as much as 30 to 40 percent. That is because alcohol can drastically lower blood sugar levels, and improve your body’s ability to regulate insulin and glucose levels.
As with everything else, moderation is key. Too much whiskey can lower your blood sugar to unsafe levels, especially if you already have diabetes.
Cholesterol is one of the most significant contributors to heart attacks, and nearly 37 percent of Americans have high cholesterol requiring medical intervention. The trick to healthy cholesterol levels is maintaining low LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and increasing HDL (“good” cholesterol).
That’s where whiskey comes in handy. A study published by the American Heart Association in 2000 has found that alcohol can boost HDL levels in the blood, which helps prevent the buildup of LDL. The exact mechanism for it is unknown, but the facts don’t lie.
For years we’ve heard about antioxidants, this miracle ingredient in some foods that can reduce the risk of cancer. As the name implies, antioxidants can prevent the cell damage caused by oxidants, or “free radicals.”
Red wine has been touted as a healthy source of antioxidants, but studies show that the level of ellagic acid (which breaks down free radicals in our body) in red wine is present in higher concentrations in whiskey! So, swap out that glass of wine, because the health benefits of scotch or bourbon are even greater.
Lowered Risk of Stroke
As mentioned earlier on our list, alcohol acts as a blood thinner, similar to aspirin. Not only does that improve your heart health, but it also reduces the risk of blood clots and stroke! Doctors have found that a moderate amount of whiskey leads to a 25 to 40 percent reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke, which is the type of stroke caused by blood clots.
The same Harvard study that found cardiovascular benefits from alcohol also noted the effect on blood clots, as well.
Strengthened Immune System
In Europe, whiskey has been used to treat and prevent minor illnesses for centuries. Doctors used it to disinfect wounds and promote quicker healing, while it was a favorite home remedy for colds and other common sicknesses.
This may be more than an old-wives’ tale, though. A study from Oregon Health & Science University showed that whiskey could aid in the effectiveness of vaccines. In their study, researchers gave a group of monkeys the smallpox vaccination, and then they monitored them as they consumed a 4 percent ethanol mixture for 14 months.
The heavy and non-drinkers in the group had much lower immune responses to the vaccine than those who drank a moderate amount of alcohol. What does this mean? Basically, a moderate amount of whiskey or other hard liquor can boost your immune system to help fight off diseases!
A typical movie trope is a lead character returning home after a long day and pouring himself a glass of whiskey to calm down. It’s no secret that alcohol lowers inhibitions and reduces stress at night, but not many people are aware of the long-term effects.
According to an NIH study, moderate whiskey drinking can increase happiness levels over an extended period of regular use, as well as lowering stress and depression levels. Whiskey increases blood circulation (because it’s a blood thinner) which gets more blood to your brain. This is thought to be the reason why drinking whiskey makes you happier.
Whiskey has long been drunk as a digestive aid at the end of a good meal. Frequent whiskey sippers boast that a glass of whiskey reduces the risk of stomach ache and indigestion after a heavy meal.
How does that work? It turns out that each sip of whiskey increases blood flow to the stomach and gastrointestinal system, which allows it to work harder to process your food. This also helps shut down your appetite, making you less likely to overeat (or order a second dessert).
When you combine all of the whiskey’s health benefits, it’s certainly possible that drinking a glass of whiskey a day can prolong your life. This effect has been studied in older adults, with surprising results. In adults aged 55 to 65, moderate drinkers were shown to have a 20-year mortality rate that was 50 percent of the mortality rate in non-drinkers, and just 30 percent of the mortality rate in heavy drinkers.
That means you should let your grandpa keep drinking that glass of whiskey he has every night before bed because it could be saving his life!
We’ve been using whiskey to treat ailments of the body, mind, and spirit for hundreds of years. The health benefits of whiskey have been proven by modern doctors and scientists as well. If you’re looking for an easy, fun way to improve your overall physical and mental health, try ending your day with a nice glass of your favorite whiskey.
There’s a fine line between moderate drinking and an alcohol problem, however. If you suspect that you or a friend might have a drinking problem, please call SAMHSA’s free national hotline, 1-800-662-HELP.