If you love sipping on a vodka martini or Cosmo, then here's some good news just in time for happy hour: There are many surprising vodka health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, stress relief and even weight loss. Enjoy vodka in moderation to avoid possible health risks.
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To enjoy vodka's health benefits, such as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, drink no more than one to two drinks per day, ideally before or after dinner.
Vodka Health Benefits
Vodka has been around for centuries and has been scientifically proven to have some real health benefits, starting with your heart. In an article published in the March 2014 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it was determined that moderate alcohol intake decreases the risk of dying from coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, strokes and diabetes mellitus.
However, according to this review of studies, the benefits are only for those who drink moderately, which is defined as one drink per day for women and one or two drinks for men. One drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor, such as vodka. If you regularly drink more than that, not only will you not receive the vodka health benefits, but it poses a health risk.
Alcohol can have mental health benefits, too. Spirits such as vodka and whiskey are more likely to prompt feelings of confidence, sexiness and aggressiveness, says a study in the November 2017 issue of the British Medical Journal. Those who drink wine or beer were more likely to feel relaxed. Red wine, more than any other spirit or wine, was more likely to prompt sleepiness.
You can give your immune system a boost to help fight off infections by drinking a moderate amount of alcohol, says a study in the December 2013 issue of the journal Vaccine. Although more research needs to be done, as this was studied on monkeys, light drinking in conjunction with regular vaccinations may help to keep your immune system functioning at an optimal level. Drinking excessively, however, can decrease your immune system response.
Vodka Health Risks
Before you break open a bottle of Grey Goose to get all those vodka health benefits, it's important to also be aware of vodka health risks. The most important point is to know that all the health benefits of vodka above are wiped out if you aren't drinking in moderation, which, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is no more than one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
According to a study published in July 2017 by Translational Medicine of Aging, excessive drinking — defined as six or more drinks per day — is the leading cause of premature death in individuals ages 15 to 49. It accounts for 40 percent of deaths from liver disease, is hard on your heart and increases the risk of developing cancers, such as breast, mouth and esophagus.
Men in particular need to be aware of the disadvantages of drinking too much vodka, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that men are more likely to binge-drink and have higher rates of dying or seriously injuring themselves from alcohol. For men who are ready to start a family, it's important to know that drinking too much can affect male hormones and testicular function, resulting in infertility or impotence.
Vodka Benefits for Weight Loss
Besides helping your heart health, drinking vodka also benefits weight loss. Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol appears to increase your metabolism, despite the fact that you are consuming more calories from the alcohol, according to a study featured in the October 2017 issue of the FASEB Journal. Even though it was conducted with mice, an older study published in March 2010 in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed similar results.
Researchers theorize that moderate drinking affects how your body metabolizes alcohol. The study does point out that these moderate drinkers were also more likely to exercise, so drinking is probably not the only factor involved — but it does contribute.
If you are watching your waistline, vodka is a good choice as a 1 1/2-ounce serving of 80-proof vodka has 97 calories in one shot and no carbs, compared to a margarita, which has around 450 calories for an 8-ounce serving. Mix the vodka with zero-calorie soda or mineral water and a twist of lime for a cocktail that is both refreshing and figure friendly. Drinking alcohol does not cause weight gain or slow your metabolism as long as you watch your calories.
Read more: Calories in Beer, Wine, Vodka and Whiskey
Healthy Vodka Brands to Enjoy
You just need to scan the shelves of your favorite liquor store to see all the different brands and flavors of vodka to choose from. Most vodkas are gluten-free, such as Tito's and Grey Goose, while Ocean vodka boasts that it is organic. For those wanting the vodka benefits of weight loss, Ketel One Botanicals has the lowest calorie count at 73 calories per 1 1/2-ounce serving. In addition, it is gluten-free and infused with fruit and herbal essential oils with flavors.
Regardless of the brand of vodka you choose, there is one mixer you should avoid. Do not mix energy drinks, such as Red Bull, with vodka as it impairs judgement and increases the tendency for people to get violent, says an article that was published in the September 2018 issue of Journal of Psychiatric Research. Stick with mixers such as club soda, grapefruit juice or drink vodka straight up in a martini glass.
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health"
- British Medical Journal: "Do Emotions Related to Alcohol Consumption Differ by Alcohol Type? An International Cross-Sectional Survey of Emotions Associated With Alcohol Consumption and Influence on Drink Choice in Different Settings"
- Vaccine: "Moderate Alcohol Consumption Enhances Vaccine-Induced Responses in Rhesus Macaques"
- ScienceDirect: Translational Medicine of Aging: "Alcohol and Aging: From Epidemiology to Mechanism"
- Alcohol Health and Research World: "Alcohol's Effects on Male Reproduction"
- FASEB Journal: “Moderate Alcohol Intake Induces Thermogenic Brown/Beige Adipocyte Formation Via Elevating Retinoic Acid Signaling"
- Archives of Internal Medicine: "Alcohol Consumption, Weight Gain, and Risk of Becoming Overweight in Middle-Aged and Older Women"
- ScienceDirect: Journal of Psychiatric Research: "Taurine Modulates Acute Ethanol-induced Social Behavioral Deficits and Fear Responses in Adult Zebrafish"
- Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 9. Alcohol"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Fact Sheets: Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men's Health"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Gluten free diet: Building the grocery list"
- Ocean Vodka: "Our Story"
- KetelOne.com: "New Ketel One Botanical"