Top 7 Surprising Benefits of Whiskey

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The health benefits of whiskey include its ability to aid in weight loss, slow down the onset of dementia, improve heart health, prevent and manage diabetes, increase HDL cholesterol, eliminate blood clots, and strengthen the immune system.

When people think of whiskey (also known as whisky), there are countless images that come to mind. Hard-drinking cowboys in old movies taking shots before barroom brawls, prohibition-era speakeasies from Chicago to New York or just the overwhelming smell of whiskey as it fills your head and sends chills down your spine.

People tend to have a love-hate relationship with this particular form of alcohol, but if everyone knew of the health benefits it contains, many of them would likely change their tune and ask the bartender for one more whiskey, neat.

What is Whiskey?

The American Journal of Enology and Viticulture says that whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage that is made of some type of grain mash. The quality, flavor, price, and name of the whiskey in question depend on which type of grain you might be making your whiskey from, including barley, wheat, rye, corn, buckwheat, etc.

2 glasses of whiskey with ice on a wooden table

Whiskey is a distilled beverage made from fermented grain mash. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Different types of whiskeys are produced from different whole grains using pot stills or column stills. The processes are very similar, but the taste is distinct in different parts of the world. Finally, the method of storing and aging, which is usually done in cask barrels, also determines the quality and flavor of whiskey.

A rye whiskey aged for 10 years in a charred white oak cask will taste completely different from a barley whiskey aged for 15 years in a wine cask, which some distilleries choose to do. This results in a massive variety of whiskeys throughout the world and makes being a connoisseur of this particular alcoholic discipline intoxicatingly enjoyable.

Nutrition Facts

Alcoholic beverage, distilled, whiskey, 86 proof
Serving Size :
Water [g]63.9
Energy [kcal]250
Energy [kJ]1046
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]0.1
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.1
Iron, Fe [mg]0.02
Phosphorus, P [mg]3
Potassium, K [mg]1
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.02
Copper, Cu [mg]0.01
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.01
Thiamin [mg]0.01
Riboflavin [mg]0
Niacin [mg]0.05
Alcohol, ethyl [g]36
Sources include : USDA

Whiskey Nutrition Facts

Whiskey is extremely low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and it also has a negligible level of carbohydrates, according to the USDA.

There isn’t much to whiskey, frankly, except for a large amount of alcohol, but in terms of its organic compounds, it is rich in ellagic acid, which is a very powerful antioxidant and is responsible for a lot of the benefits.

Health Benefits of Whiskey

There are many benefits to whiskey like helping with weight loss, curing dementia, maintaining good heart health, and more. Let’s look at the most common health benefits in detail.

Weight Loss

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that alcohol can help reduce obesity. Many people associate drinking heavily with developing a “beer gut” or losing their muscle tone due to excessive alcohol. However, drinking in moderation doesn’t necessarily impact your weight, particularly if you drink whiskey.

This delicious liquor has no fat and very little sodium. It does contain calories and carbohydrates, but in the form of alcohol, and the small amount it does contain is simple sugars that are quickly broken down to be used as energy for the body. Therefore, instead of pounding pints of beer at the bar, have a few neat whiskeys instead, to maintain your weight while still having a good time.

Prevents Dementia

A 2012 study published in the Pharmacognosy Review has actually shown that whiskey can successfully boost your cognitive performance and reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Although studies are ongoing and there is quite a bit of controversy regarding alcohol as a treatment/preventative method, there is no denying that ellagic acid is extremely powerful in terms of fighting against free radicals within the body. These free radicals are often associated with interrupting neural pathways and contributing to the slow decline towards dementia.

Whiskey can reduce that mental decline and improve our quality of life as we get older. Once again, this is useful when consumed in moderation; too much alcohol kills brain cells and does the precise opposite of protecting the cognitive activity.

Protects Heart Health

Whiskey is a major player in protecting heart health. It increases HDL cholesterol, which counteracts the effects of LDL cholesterol. As our body gets older, our systems become frailer, resulting in the less efficient functioning of various organs, including our cardiovascular system.

Researchers at the Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK published a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that concluded that those who consume a moderate amount of whiskey on a regular basis have almost a 50% lower chance of experiencing a stroke or heart attack, which is exceptional news for those at risk of cardiovascular issues.

Reduces Internal Blood Clotting

Whiskey significantly reduces blood clotting. Blood clotting is important when you are wounded so that you stop losing blood, but internally, if your blood clots at key junctures in your blood vessels or arteries, it can be disastrous.

Atherosclerosis, which usually occurs due to a large build-up of cholesterol, can combine with blood clots to result in thrombosis, heart attacks, strokes, and death. Whiskey is a blood-thinner, so it significantly lowers your chances of excess clotting.

Boosts Immune System

Moderate consumption of whiskey is said to boost the immune system. Alcohol did have a traditional role in preventing illness and improving the function of the immune system, but the firm evidence was never in hand. Now, we see that the antioxidants and trace levels of vitamins in this alcoholic beverage do in fact stimulate the immune system, thereby helping to fight off normal cold, illnesses, and infections. All of those old movies where they would pour whiskey on a wound to disinfect it is not fiction. You can pour it on a fresh wound to make sure it does not get infected.

Health benefits of whiskey infographic

The American Journal of Enology and Viticulture says that whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage that is made of some type of grain mash.

Controls Diabetes

Whiskey has been consistently shown to reduce the chances of diabetes, sometimes by as much as 30-40%. A 2010 study published in the journal of Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases states that moderate amount of whiskey can significantly improve your body’s ability to regulate insulin and glucose levels, thereby lowering the possibility of developing diabetes.

How much whiskey is safe to drink?

Alcohol is generally regarded as something bad that could potentially damage your liver, impact your lifestyle, and result in a number of unsavory outcomes when consumed in excess, which is completely true. If one drinks responsibly, whiskey, just like beer and wine, can actually confer some health benefits to its drinkers. The dietary guidelines suggest that women can have one drink a day and men can have 2 drinks a day to reap the maximum benefits.

Word of Caution: Although these health benefits sound wonderful, there is also a dangerous side to drinking whiskey. Alcoholism and binge drinking are very detrimental to your overall health and can undo any possible good things that moderate amounts can impart. Therefore, be watchful of how much alcohol you consume, particularly if you try to drink small amounts every day. Your tolerance will increase, and you may feel the desire to continue drinking until you feel that “buzz”. This is a dangerous and unhealthy progression. Consume small to moderate amounts of whiskey for the best results. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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