Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, there’s plenty of celebrating on the calendar. Bottles will be opened, toasts will be given and – if history repeats itself – liquor sales will increase nearly 50% during the month of December alone. So, if you’re one of the revelers raising a glass, you need to know the good and the bad of imbibing. Here are the details, courtesy of our friends at Real Simple magazine. First: The GOOD.

  • In moderation, it can lower your cholesterol. Many studies have linked drinking moderate amounts of alcohol – that’s one drink a day MAX - with higher levels of good HDL cholesterol. Not only that, but people who drink moderately have larger particles of both good and bad – LDL – cholesterol. So why is bigger better? Larger HDL particles fight heart disease, while larger particles of bad LDL cholesterol are less likely to cause heart disease than smaller particles are.
  • A 2nd benefit of alcohol: It can keep you young! A groundbreaking study from the University of Wisconsin found that when lab mice were fed small amounts of an antioxidant found in red wine – they aged more slowly. Their hearts, in particular, stayed younger longer. Also, the antioxidants in red wine reduce fat cell formation and slow fat storage – which can help control your weight. Drier wines, such as Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, contain the highest levels of this antioxidant.

Now for the not-so-good:

  • Too much alcohol can affect your sleep. Yes, alcohol’s a sedative, but it’ll also wake you up after you drift off. Robert Swift, associate director of the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, says to keep you alert when you start to get sleepy, your brain alters certain hormones, creating a stimulation that counteracts the sedative effects of alcohol. However the sedating effects wear off before the stimulation does, so you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Also, alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. Research shows that having three or more drinks per day can increase your risk by 30%, and experts agree that’s reason enough to cut back.

Bottom line: Moderation, as always, is the key.