It’s easy to completely write alcohol off as an unhealthy and dangerous substance. The reality is that some people can’t handle alcohol, and others have a bad reaction to it. Either way, it’s never a good idea to drink in excess — though some influences view it as passage into adulthood in modern society.

There are some surprising health benefits to drinking in moderation (emphasis on the moderation). Here are a few things that most people don’t know about alcohol:

Beer is Good For You

Beer that tastes great and is made to exacting standards is actually better for your health than cheap, light beers, or corn and rice based lagers. At a party, you may enjoy a pale ale for its smoothness, but it’s the rich dark beers with complex flavors and hard-to-pronounce names that offer greater benefits for your mood, circulation and general well-being. Do not view this as permission to drink your way to good health though.

The French Paradox

The French enjoy a diet rich in fats, sugars and cream. They also enjoy one of the lowest heart disease rates in the world, and low rates of obesity. Some theorize this may have to do with the riboflavin found in the grape skins used to make wine. While it appears there’s not quite enough riboflavin in a bottle of wine to make a tremendous difference, it may well be a contributing factor, in combination with other vitamin research products.

Negative Effects

The question isn’t whether to completely abstain, but how much is healthy to consume. For some, social drinking is fine. Others can minimize risk by limiting themselves to a glass of wine with dinner on special occasions. In addition to the health benefits of beer and wine, you may want to take into account negative consequences such as:

Liver Damage

Prolonged exposure to alcohol can destroy your liver. Your liver has the capacity to recover over time, but it’s a lot easier to damage yourself with too much alcohol than it is for your body to recover, so it’s best to keep binges to a minimum.

Brain Damage

Even soft drinks carry health risks, but alcohol can wreak some serious havoc on brain cells, diminishing motor skills immediately and in the long run. Newer research shows that brain cells do regenerate over time; however, it’s a risky bet to knowingly harm yourself with the hope of growing healthy brain cells back over time.

Physical Damage

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes; about one every 53 minutes. Driving with motorcycle helmets and other protective gear will not prevent DUIs or the injuries or fatalities that come from drunk driving in a car or on a motorcycle.

Worth the Risk?

Doctors actually recommend a glass of red wine on occasion. But at the end of the day, it’s much smarter to abstain or drink moderately. Alcoholism, liver and brain damage, and reduced motor skills are reason enough to resist overindulging.

Dave Gregory – Dave studied health and nutrition in California. He is now an editor with an emphasis in the health and wellness field, and is learning to mountain bike.