People often ask a question about alcohol- “to be or not to be?” I feel that while taking diet history the most neglected part is asking about person’s drinking habits. It matters a lot for understanding a person’s overall lifestyle, weight gain tendency etc. Type of alcohol consumed by a human being for its intoxicating and mind-altering effects is ethyl alcohol or ethanol. It is a clear liquid with harsh burning taste and having high volatility.
The Brief description of alcoholic beverages
Wines are made from grapes but are made from various other juicy fruits, such as peaches, plums or apricots. The most common wines are produced from grapes. Nature of the soil determines the quality and taste of the grapes which in turn affects the taste and quality of wines. Ripe grapes are crushed and fermented in large vats to produce wine.
Beer is made by the process of fermenting various cereals such as corn, rye, wheat or barley etc. The process of fermentation produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. When the desired limit of alcohol content is achieved, the process of fermentation is stopped. The alcohol so produced is called beer. It contains 4 to 8 percent of alcohol.
Whiskey is made by the method of distillation. The fermented juice of cereal grains such as corn, rye or barley is further gets distilled then after whiskey is prepared. Word scotch is often heard is also a type of whiskey.
Rum is also a distilled beverage made after fermenting molasses or sugarcane juice. It is aged for at least three years. Usually, caramel is added for coloring purpose.
It is made from fruit juices by the method same as distilling after fermentation. Brandy is usually stored and aged in oak wood casks. Casks give brandy a typical color or caramel can be added.
It is a distilled beverage which is a combination of alcohol, water, and various flavors. The quality of Gin is not altered or improved as it gets old, and so it does not need to be stored in wooden casks.
Liqueurs are made by a combination of fruits, herbs or flowers to brandy or to a combination of alcohol and water. Many times sugar is added to the liquid. Alcohol content can vary from 20-65 percent.
The following picture will give us the idea about the alcohol content of different beverages.
Do you know that calories in alcohol lead to weight gain?
As we understand the process of making alcohol it contains lots of calories extracted from sugar or starch. On an average, it contains seven calories per gram of alcohol. Calories from alcohol are ’empty calories’ it means that they have no other essential nutrients. Some alcoholic drinks contain traces of vitamins and minerals, but they do not make any significant contribution to our diet.
On the other side, our body cannot store alcohol so our systems take efforts to get rid of it but meanwhile, other important processes in our body get interrupted. Another reason for weight gain is that foods eaten along with drinks are high in calories and salt content. So be aware of what quantity you are taking any alcoholic beverage. The image below will show you the calories present in different drinks.
Lauren Butler and his colleagues had done national health and nutritional examination survey. They find out that Heavier-drinking men (≥3 drinks/day) and women (≥2 drinks/day) consumed less nonalcoholic calories. Also in men, drinking ≥5 drinks/day was associated with higher Waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) compared with men who consumed 1 to 2 drinks/day.
Advantages and disadvantages of taking alcohol
Depending upon dose and frequency of consumption, it acts as tonic or poison. Also depending on the person’s genotype, other daily habits its effects vary.
A limited quantity of liquor consumption with less level of Alcohol percentage products will have beneficial effects. If people take drinks in moderate quantity then it is safe for the person but one can’t make this consumption as a regular habit. One to two drinks per day by men and one drink by women is a moderate drinking according to Harvard. It contains about 12 to 14 grams of alcohol in each drink.
- A moderate quantity of alcohol can reduce the risk of heart attack and strokes.
- It helps in increasing HDL cholesterol (Good cholesterol)
- Red wine is known to have higher concentrations of polyphenols that can help in reducing the blood pressure levels.
- For some people, it can reduce LDL cholesterol (Bad cholesterol)
- Some researches suggest that the risk of kidney stones can be lowered with moderate alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol is used in many medicines in prescribed quantity to have beneficial effects.
When people tend to drink higher than required does it leads to certain problems
- It primarily affects a person’s liver. People diagnosed with Alcoholic hepatitis which is inflammation to the liver. Chronic intake of alcohol then gradually will destroy the liver cells and make the organ dysfunctional.
- Increases blood pressure.
- May have a role in the development of certain types of cancers; like breast, mouth, colon, liver etc.
- Heavy drinking increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Disrupt sleep patterns.
- Person’s social and family life gets affected by frequent Alcohol consumption.
- Prone to road accidents.
- The most important disadvantage is that people will get habitual of it and it will adversely affect health, especially the nervous system.
- It is a depressant that slows down the function of the brain. It also alters mood. People lose consciousness.
- Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can seriously affect the development of the baby. Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy can cause the baby to develop learning difficulties and behavioral problems.
Via- the drink buiseness.com
The Bottom Line: Balancing Risks and Benefits
Each one of us has unique personal and family history so the effect of alcohol differs accordingly. Moderate drinking is linked to various health benefits. On the other hand, alcohol addiction is linked to several negative effects on both physical and mental health. Healthcare provider is the right person which will be able to help to balance the risks and benefits. Broadly following pointers are considered:
- If a person is thin, do regular exercise, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, and have no family history of heart disease, drinking moderate alcohol won’t add much to decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease.
- If a person doesn’t drink then any need to start as you will get similar benefits with exercise (It will reduce cholesterol) or healthier eating. A healthier lifestyle is an important point to be considered.
- Men and women can have different effects of taking alcohol. So if you already drink alcohol or plan to begin, keep it moderate. The recommendation suggests that no more than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women.
- Genes also play an important role in understanding the risk of developing cardiovascular disease due to alcoholism.
- Before recommending a dose of alcohol it is important to understand whether a person is taking any drug which probably can interact with alcohol taken.
- Chronic alcohol intake will gradually destroy the functioning of the liver and thereby affecting folate metabolism so it is important to provide folate-rich foods through diet.
To conclude I personally advise that think wisely before you drink.