Effects of Alcohol on the Body:
It’s well-established that drinking too much is bad for you, but there’s often uncertainty regarding how moderate drinking affects health. Understanding what “moderate drinking” means is necessary for anyone looking for health benefits associated with alcohol. For men, moderation means no more than two drinks a day, while for women moderation means no more than one drink a day. One drink is equal to one bottle of beer, one glass of wine or one shot of liquor. Note that a large glass of wine counts as two drinks, not one.
Possible Health Benefits:
- When consumed in low doses, alcohol can reduce blood pressure
- Alcohol helps to clear fat from the arteries, and reduces the blood’s tendency to clot. Inflamed arteries that block blood flow are problematic for the heart, as it doesn’t receive the oxygen it needs
- Alcohol consumption encourages smoother blood flow, thus lowering the risk of heart disease
- Red wine also has the added effect of lowering cholesterol levels
- The most common type or stroke, called ischemic stroke, occurs when a vessel bringing blood to the brain gets “clogged” and the alcohol helps the blood go to the brain, and therefore it reduces stroke
- The benefits of alcohol on heart disease and stroke allow some people to argue that moderate consumption is associated with longer lifespan.
- For most people, one serving of alcohol before bed will have no effect on sleeping and may actually help them fall asleep
- Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that one of its effects is to encourage water to leave the body more quickly
- Drinking moderately can often enhance social interaction as it enhances cognition, so it makes people more convivial and enhances social interactions. For people who drink in a bar, strangers often start conversations but alcohol is psychotropic it changes people’s mood states and can make them more pleasant, or more irritable, depending on the individual.
Adverse Health Effects:
- The other type of stroke, hemorrhagic, occurs when blood seeps out of a brain blood vessel. Because alcohol thins blood, it actually makes this type of stroke worse
- While alcohol helps people fall asleep, but makes it more likely they’ll wake up during the night. “You will sleep faster, but not better,” because alcohol interferes with REM sleep
- Even at moderate levels, alcohol consumption can interfere with medications in possibly dangerous ways. Alcohol is processed by the liver, and when alcohol and other compounds are present in the body, alcohol takes precedence. This means that other medications which are also processed in the liver will not be broken down as quickly, so people will feel their effects much more strongly. This can especially be a problem if the body becomes accustomed to needing to filter out alcohol consistently, because this will cause the liver to rev up its breakdown processes. Then, if someone stops drinking for a few days, the liver will process medications too quickly, which can have dangerous effects, for example, for people who take medication to prevent seizures.
- The common pain reliever acetaminophen (found in Tylenol) is filtered from the blood by the liver. People who drink any alcohol should limit their use of Tylenol.
- Drinking alcohol constricts your aerobic metabolism and endurance
- Alcohol holds very little nutritional value to an athlete and is relatively high in calories and these calories are not converted to glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrates, and thus are not a good source of energy during exercise. Each drink contains approximately 100-150 empty calories. The body treats alcohol as fat, converting alcohol sugars into fatty acids.
- Alcohol use inhibits absorption of nutrients. Not only is alcohol devoid of proteins, minerals, and vitamins, it actually inhibits the absorption and usage of vital nutrients such as thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc. Thiamin (vitamin B1) is involved in the metabolism of proteins and fat and the formation of hemoglobin.
- Alcohol causes dehydration and slows down the body’s ability to heal.
- Alcohol use prevents muscle recovery. In order to build bigger and stronger muscles, your body needs sleep to repair itself after a workout. Because of alcohol’s effect on sleep, however, your body is robbed of a precious chemical called “human growth hormone” or HGH. HGH is part of the normal muscle-building and repair process and the body’s way of telling itself your muscle needs to grow bigger and stronger. Alcohol, however, can decrease the secretion of HGH by as much as 70 percent! Also, when alcohol is in your body, it triggers the production of a substance in your liver that is directly toxic to testosterone. Testosterone is essential for the development and recovery of your muscles
- Alcohol use depletes your source of energy. Once alcohol is absorbed through your stomach and small intestine and finally into your cells, it can disrupt the water balance in muscle cells, thus altering their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is your muscles’ source of energy. ATP provides the furl necessary for your muscles to contract.
- Alcohol also reduces energy sources by inhibiting a process known as gluconeogenesis in which glucose is formed from substances other than glucose. When alcohol is oxidized by alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme), it produces an elevation of NADH, which ultimately reduces the amount of a coenzyme that is essential in the production of ATP. This loss of ATP results in a lack of energy and loss of endurance.