I often advise you to enjoy “all things in moderation.” Including alcohol.
This philosophy isn’t just wishful thinking. It derives from important scientific concepts, including one called “hormesis.”
The underlying premise of hormesis is that certain substances are toxic in high doses. But in much lower doses, these same substances are beneficial.
Cyanide is one good example of hormesis in nature. Of course, cyanide is toxic to the human body at higher levels. But at very low levels–and this may come as a surprise–it has healthy results!
In fact, many seeds, nuts and pits of fruits contain trace amounts of cyanide. It acts as a “natural pesticide” and protects the foods from damage by small predators, such as microbes and insects. But it causes no lasting damage to larger animals.
In addition, small, trace amounts of cyanide positively affect your metabolism. In fact, a form of vitamin B12 called cyanobalamin is made with cyanide. This fact deters some buyers. But it shouldn’t. Cyanobalamin is completely safe. And no less healthy than other forms of B12. In fact, cyanobalamin is the most commonly used form of B12. And it’s much more stable than other forms. (See the upcoming September issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter for more information about B vitamins. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)
The principle of hormesis also applies to other natural substances–such as some vitamins, minerals, and even oxygen. These natural substances support health in low-to-moderate doses. But they can be toxic at excessive doses.
Hormesis also applies to compounds found in the body. For example, adrenaline, adenosine, androgens, estrogens, nitric oxide, opioids, many peptides, and prostaglandins all have beneficial effects at low concentrations. But they’re detrimental to the human body and metabolism at high concentrations. For example, women need balanced amounts of estrogen to ovulate. But persistent high levels can cause cancer.
Many phytochemicals–found in fruits, vegetables, and spices–have clear hormetic dosing effects. Like exercise and caloric restriction, these phytochemicals may act as mild stressors. They prompt the body to adapt and protect itself.
But here again, a little bit helps the body; too much hurts it.
The hormesis principle also helps explain why today’s “the-more-the-better” mindset isn’t always the best approach. In particular, many of today’s clinicians and nutritionists hold this misguided assumption about antioxidants.
Just think about it…
The human body evolved to obtain its nutrients–including antioxidants–from the foods we eat. So, when we eat organic fruits and vegetables–which contain higher nutrient levels–we get the right amount of antioxidants. Adding heaping amounts of antioxidants from supplements to the amount we get from food is not natural and generally not a good idea. Again, more isn’t always better when it comes to nutrients. So it’s important to look very closely at the science.
In 2002, a pair of researchers suggested hormesis is a widespread biological buffering mechanism. It protects us against environmental assaults. And even from assaults within our own body. Through hormesis, your body compensates to deal with the assault, protecting you against further assaults down the line. We see hormesis at work in many different organisms. So many experts believe we evolved to develop this protective mechanism.
Alcohol probably works as one of our best-known and most commonly consumed hormetins. (A hormentin is substance that demonstrates hormesis.)
Let me explain…
Ethanol is a chemical solvent. Clearly, at high levels it is toxic to the human body. However, at low doses, ethanol is a biochemical metabolite that benefits health. It protects against cardiovascular diseases and some other chronic diseases. Plus, as I explained last week, it may even improve diabetic complications. Such as diabetic neuropathy and some kidney problems.