Alcohol is consumed by billions of people every day. The majority of those drinkers don’t even realize how many different types of alcohol there are. Different types of alcohol have different health risks, so it’s important to know what you’re drinking and how that beverage might affect your body. The most common type of alcohol is beer. It also has the lowest risk of causing long-term harm to one’s body.
Wine, however, has a much higher risk of leading to problems down the road — especially for those who drink it on a regular basis. Some other commonly consumed types of alcohol include distilled spirits (e.g., vodka), malt beverages, and hard liquors (e.g., whiskey). Many people think the more common varieties are safer than others, but this isn’t always the case. The following explains why some types of alcohol are more dangerous than others, as well as their health risks if you consume too much over time.
What’s the Difference Between Alcohol Types?
Alcohol is a beverage made by steeping grains like barley or other plants like corn, rye, or wheat in water and fermenting the mixture. Once it’s ready to be consumed, it’s fermented and distilled into different types of alcohol. Beer is usually made from malted grains and fermented. It’s usually made from barley, wheat, or rice.
Wine is made from fermented grapes, but some wines are made from other fruits or from berries. Distilled spirits are made from fermented fruits and/or grains, and then distilled to turn the alcohol into an extract that’s less potent. Malt beverages are made by fermenting malted grains and then distilled to produce alcohol. Hard liquors are distilled, and then flavoring extracts are added to produce alcohol.
Beer is made by fermenting grains with yeast and is usually red in color because yeast consumes the pigment beta-carotene during fermentation. Beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and chlorophyll are also naturally occurring pigments in barley and other grains that are used to make beer. Brewers extract the natural pigments in grains during the malting process to create beers with a red or amber color. Some people worry about beer’s health risks because it’s primarily made from fermented grains, but the fermentation process creates beneficial bacteria that are crucial for human health.
There are several health benefits from drinking beer. Beer is high in B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and B6, which are important for energy metabolism, metabolism of amino acids, and metabolism of cholesterol. Beer is also high in minerals like potassium and phosphorous, which are important for muscle function. Some studies have also found beer consumption to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Wine is made by fermenting fermented grapes, and the fermentation process also creates beneficial bacteria that are crucial for human health. Most red wines are made from grapes that are fermented with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, while white wines are usually made from yeasts that are not Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Wine has been consumed throughout the world for thousands of years, and it still remains one of the most popular alcoholic beverages today. Although wine has been shown to have many health benefits, one should not consume it excessively.
Excessive alcohol intake can lead to many health problems, including liver damage, high blood pressure, and sometimes even cancer. Drinking too much wine increases the risk of developing these problems, especially for those who consume it on a regular basis. In general, drinking two glasses of red wine or five glasses of white wine per week is not considered a health risk for most people. Some studies, however, have found that the risk of developing a certain health problem increases as the amount of wine increases.
Distilled Spirits (Vodka)
Distilled spirits are made by fermenting fermented grains and then distilled to turn the alcohol into an extract that’s less potent. Vodka is one of the most common types of distilled spirits and is usually clear in color. It’s made from grains like corn, rye, wheat, or barley and is fermented with yeast. This process turns the starch in the grains into sugar. The yeast is then filtered out of the vodka. Vodka’s health risks are higher than those of other distilled spirits because it’s relatively high in calories, fructose, and sodium.
Malt Beverages (Whine, Whiskey)
Malt beverages are made by fermenting malted grains and then distilled to produce alcohol. Whisky is the most common type of malt beverage and is usually clear in color. It’s made from fermented barley and is aged in wooden barrels. Scotch whisky is made from malted barley and aged in wooden barrels that are made from a type of oak tree. Barley wine is a malt beverage that’s usually made from barley malt and aged in wooden barrels.
Hard Liquors (Grain, Rum, Tequila)
Hard liquors are distilled and flavoured extracts are added to produce alcohol. Grain liquor is a mixture of beer and other ingredients, like sugar, yeast, or fruit, and it’s usually clear in color. Rum is another common type of hard liquor, which is also clear in color and is made from sugarcane. Tequila is a clear, silver-coloured alcoholic beverage that’s usually made from a type of agave plant.
Health Risks of Consuming Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows down your nervous system, causing the brain to stay active longer and allowing it to absorb more of the hormones that regulate your physical functions. The health risks of consuming too much alcohol include increased risk of heart disease and stroke, liver damage, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. The effects of alcohol on the body depend on the amount of alcohol consumed, the duration of alcohol consumption, and also the type of beverage consumed. Certain beverages, like beer, have a low risk of affecting one’s health, while other types of alcohol, like whiskey, have a much higher risk of leading to problems down the road.
Should You Drink? How Much is Too Much?
It’s important to remember that there is no safe amount of alcohol that is good for your health. Even though beer has the lowest risk of causing long-term harm to one’s body, it still has many health risks, especially for those who consume it on a regular basis. That’s because beer has a relatively high amount of calories, sugar, and sodium, which can contribute to weight gain and high blood pressure over time.
Some other factors that can contribute to harmful alcohol consumption include genetic makeup, age, gender, and lifestyle factors, like whether you exercise regularly. People with a family history of heart disease, those over the age of 55, and those who don’t exercise regularly are at an increased risk of harmful alcohol consumption.
What are the most common types of alcohol?
The most common types of alcohol are beer, wine, distilled spirits (e.g., vodka), malt beverages, and hard liquors (e.g., whiskey).
How is beer made?
Beer is usually made from malted grains and fermented. It’s usually made from barley, wheat, or rice.
How are distilled spirits made?
Distilled spirits are made from fermented fruits and/or grains, and then distilled to turn the alcohol into an extract that’s less potent. Flavoring extracts may also be added to produce specific types of distilled spirits such as gin, rum, or tequila.