The 6 Most Surprising Ways Alcohol Is Actually Good for You
Let's be clear: Alcoholism will kill you dead. Drunk driving will kill you, and probably multiple children along the way. There are no medical benefits to chronic drunkenness.
But for all the times booze gets us in trouble, every now and then it acts like a trusty sidekick, coming in to help us out of potentially embarrassing and life-threatening situations in ways we never thought possible.
In Some Cases, Alcohol Makes You Invincible
After the fourth or fifth round of drinks, it's not unusual to see some idiot stand up in the middle of the bar and announce how heroically tough he is and demand that you dare him to jump through a plate glass window. A 22-year-old Russian man named Alexei Roskov, however, decided to dare himself and jumped out of his kitchen window after guzzling three entire bottles of vodka. This was a particularly bad idea since he lived on the fifth floor of his apartment building.
Not only did he not splat messily into the sidewalk like an alcohol-soaked sponge, but to his wife's relief and his own drunken amusement, he wasn't hurt. At all. He just got up, brushed himself off and staggered back upstairs, where his wife was on the phone calling him an ambulance. Not wanting to hang around and listen to her lecture him about how his comically impaired sense of judgment had nearly cost him his life, he jumped out of the window again.
The paramedics that arrived on the scene where baffled to find that Alexei had only a few cuts and bruises after diving from his apartment twice in a row and presumably punched him in the damn face for wasting their time.
In a pattern we'll be seeing throughout this article, the reason Alexei didn't explode into the sidewalk like a mayonnaise jar full of hamburger meat was the same thing that caused his dumbass to try it in the first place: the vodka. A drunk central nervous system is numb, causing the muscles in the body to relax. Then, the same drunken reflexes that make people more likely to park their car in the produce section of your grocery store made Alexei's body less likely to tense up in anticipation of the impact, which it turns out can save your limbs from snapping like twigs.
So in a sense his rampaging alcoholism saved his life despite pushing him from the ledge in the first place, sort of like when Riggs handcuffs that guy and jumps off the building in Lethal Weapon.
"Relax, this is totally going to work."
Alcohol Improves Your Libido
There seems to be a sweet spot for alcohol consumption that lays along a spectrum from no alcohol to enough to make things a little better to utter ruin. For instance, while most of us recognize that 75 percent of the world's sex occurs under the influence of alcohol (unofficially) because it has a way of lowering our inhibitions, there is also such a thing as "whiskey dick."
That is, you get too drunk to perform due to its sedative effect on the central nervous system, which numbs your body to external stimulus. It's the same reason you slur your speech, sway when you walk or just straight up lose consciousness.
Yet, once again, there is the sweet spot.
Studies have shown that moderate drinkers are actually 20 to 30 percent less likely to have erectile difficulties than non-drinkers. They're not sure why, it may have to do with antioxidants found in some alcohol (the same reason moderate amounts of wine protect against heart disease). Further, it appears that a small amount of alcohol can apparently "improve" a man's erection, according to one expert. We assume "improve" here means it makes it harder/bigger, rather than "adds wings and a laser beam."
Alcohol Can Keep Your Brain Alive
According to actual doctors, and presumably not just drunk ones, having a moderate amount of alcohol in your system can actually prevent death from brain trauma. Ironic, considering booze was probably the pied piper that led you to the land of severe head injury in the first place.
In a study involving almost 40,000 cases, researchers found that in younger patients with less severe injuries, having alcohol in their systems actually prevented the spread of swelling and inflammation in their brains (alcohol suppresses the body's inflammatory response). They go so far as to suggest the possibility of administering ethanol to patients with head injuries in the future, so hopefully it's only a matter of time until first responders answer emergency calls with a fully stocked bar in the back.
"Support his neck while I pour the tequila and put the lime in his mouth."
The study does point out that the drunken patients were more likely to run into complications during their stint in the hospital, and like we mentioned before, being drunk is usually what leads to you getting a ride in an ambulance. But we've got to admit, a couple days of free ice cream and vodka would certainly make a brick to the orbital socket less of a downer.
"Hey doc, I totally threw up in the bedpan. Is there more ice cream?"
But of course, just because it helps in these specific brain injuries, it doesn't mean it can, you know make you smarter or anything. Right? Oh hey look, there's a second page to this article ...
Alcohol Makes You Smarter
Ah, we stand corrected. According to the British Medical Journal, regularly drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can actually have a positive effect on your cognitive ability, keeping you safe from later onset brain disease and correctly determining a 15 percent gratuity on your bar tab.
Participants in this study who had about 30 drinks per week performed better on logic and mathematical reasoning tests than those who drank very little or nothing at all. They even scored better on short term memory evaluations, which is supposed to be the first thing to go once you start slinging back highballs.
"Wait, how did salsa get in my mustache? And why am I surrounded by douchebags?"
Granted, the studies don't mention the potency of the alcohol being consumed, and also point out that drinking too much alcohol can damage the shit out of your brain and even lead to dementia in some cases (which we're assuming you already knew). But combine those brain-flexing test results with this Italian study that suggests alcohol consumption reduces the risk of death by any cause (which we assume includes both "cancer" and "bear attacks"), and that bottle of Southern Comfort suddenly becomes the goddamn Super Soldier Serum. This effectively makes Prohibition a supervillain.
Ladies, you really settled on the wrong bargaining chip.
Alcohol is a Poison Antidote
For the sake of argument, let's say you drank some antifreeze.
The sake of argument looks a lot like Suburban Commando.
The ingredient in antifreeze that makes it work is called ethylene glycol. When you ingest it, you experience symptoms such as vomiting and severe diarrhea, paranoia, dementia and intense hallucinations. Eventually, the glycol gets turned into calcium oxylate and forms small, needle shaped crystals that shred your kidneys to pieces. Typically, this kills you.
It's time to call Poison Control, and for the first time in your life you may hear legitimate medical advice that begins with "drink a few shots of vodka and drive yourself to the hospital."
"You can have all the Burnett's you want, but your HMO doesn't cover Grey Goose."
See, the ethanol in that shot you just drank will be digested preferentially by your body, passing the ethylene glycol out of your system in a life-saving stream of pee. The method is so reliable that it's a staple at hospitals, and some even recommend that you mix yourself a screwdriver before you call 911, presumably so they can record the phone call and play it later at an office party.
In an even more amazing turn of events, some Australian doctors hooked up a tourist to an IV drip of cheap liquor when they ran out of medicinal alcohol, treating him with the equivalent of three drinks an hour for three days to wash the ethylene out of his body. This was presumably suggested after one of the doctors saw a rerun of MacGyver on the break room television while drinking from a hip flask.
Alcohol Can Help You Lose Weight
As with "whiskey dick," the term "beer gut" exists for a reason. A can of beer has 160 calories, basically like eating most of a candy bar with each one you down. But once again there is a magical amount that miraculously has the opposite effect.
In a massive study of 37,000 people, the thinnest people were not the non-drinkers. It was the people who had a few drinks a week (any more than one a day and you start to go the opposite direction). Not surprisingly, the occasional binge-drinkers were the fattest.
Why? It's not clear, as it appears to be tied more to the person's habits than any magical fat-burning qualities on the part of alcohol. Maybe people who can moderate themselves around alcohol are also good at moderating themselves around food? Maybe people who refuse to drink replace it with food (that is, they celebrate special occasions by going out to eat rather than getting drunk)? Whatever the reason, moderation wins again, even beating abstinence.
For women, the results are even more dramatic. Studies have shown that women who consume more than one drink a day are 70 percent more likely to avoid obesity (unless you're already overweight, in which case you will only get fatter). Men don't see anywhere near those results.
The reason for this is still not clear but some experts suggest it could be as simple as drinking alcohol instead of eating actual food, which women are statistically more likely to do.
After correcting for the Charlie Sheen variant.
Women and men also metabolize alcohol differently, so what results in an energy balance in men actually translates into a net loss for women, costing their bodies more effort to metabolize it. This means that at the end of the night, those calories are used up more efficiently than if you didn't drink, regardless of whether or not they ended up in the toilet or the back of a cab. So your next trip out to the bar could potentially qualify as a full-blown workout.
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