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Alcohol and diet
Definition Alcohol is the product of the fermentation of starches and sugars . It is a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid.
Alternative Names Liquor; Diet - alcohol
Function Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and acts as a mild anesthetic and tranquilizer. It is toxic in large quantities. Alcohol is considered a "macronutrient" in that it provides energy. Energy is measured in calories, and alcohol has about 7 calories per gram. The calories obtained from alcohol are considered to be "empty" because alcohol contains no beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. One-half ounce of pure alcohol, the amount in a 1-ounce shot (2 tablespoons) of liquor, contains approximately 80 to 90 calories. Carbonated beverages or fruit juices contribute additional calories when mixed with alcohol in a cocktail. Alcohol content of various alcohol-containing beverages: "Proof" is the alcohol content of distilled liquors. It is the percentage of alcohol (by volume) multiplied by two. For example:
  • 100-proof alcohol = 50% alcohol
  • 200-proof alcohol = 100% alcohol
  • The alcohol content of wine is given as a percentage. White wines average 12%, and red wines are around 14%. The alcohol content of beer is between 3% and 8%. "Light" or lower-calorie beers have fewer calories and are closer to 3% alcohol content. Liqueurs, such as sherry and dessert liqueurs contain 40% to 50% alcohol and tend to be higher in calories. In terms of alcohol content, 12 oz beer = 5 oz glass of wine = 1 1/2 oz liquor.
    Food Sources Beer, wine, and distilled liquors (such as whisky, vodka, rum, and gin) are common dietary sources of alcohol.
    Side Effects Alcohol is a leading cause of the traffic accidents in the United States because it slows reaction times and impairs your judgment. The liver detoxifies (or metabolizes) alcohol. Continued, excessive use of alcohol can damage the liver is various ways including the development of a fatty liver. A fatty liver can progress to cirrhosis of the liver , a potentially fatal condition. Alcohol is a risk factor for development of cancer of the esophagus , throat, larynx, and the mouth. The presence of alcohol impairs the absorption of essential nutrients because it can damage the lining of the small intestine and the stomach where most nutrients are digested. Alcohol also requires some vitamins in its metabolism , and it interferes with the absorption and storage of some specific vitamins. Alcohol can impair sexual function, even though it may increase your interest in sexual activity. Alcohol intake during pregnancy has been identified as the cause of fetal alcohol syndrome.
    Recommendations The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that if you drink, do so in moderation and when consumption does not put you or others at risk. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that women have no more than one drink a day and men no more than two drinks per day. One drink is a 12-ounce bottle of beer; a 5-ounce glass of wine; or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor. Chronic or excessive use of alcohol may lead to alcoholism . Drinking that endangers you or others (such as drinking and driving) is labeled "problem drinking." DURING PREGNANCY : Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition caused by alcohol intake during pregnancy. Alcohol in the bloodstream of the mother crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus. Fetal alcohol syndrome results in growth failure after birth, reduced IQ, and malformation of facial features. ALCOHOL INTAKE DURING PREGNANCY IS NOT RECOMMENDED. RESPONSIBLE INTAKE: Your body's ability to break down alcohol depends on your weight, recent food intake, physical condition, and gender. A larger person can usually tolerate more alcohol. Recent food intake will slow the digestion of alcohol, thereby minimizing its effects. Men generally tolerate more alcohol than women. It is believed that gender and genetic factors determining alcohol tolerance are related to a person's ability to produce the enzyme that helps digests alcohol. If you produce more of this enzyme, less of what you drink reaches the bloodstream in the form of alcohol, and more arrives already broken down. Therefore, a person with more of this enzyme can tolerate more alcohol without the effects on the central nervous system . General guidelines for appropriate use of alcohol:
  • Never drink alcohol and drive a car. Have someone designated to drive if you're going to drink, or plan an alternative way home, such as a taxi or bus.
  • As a general rule, the lower your body weight, the more intense the effect alcohol will have on you. Also remember that women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than men.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. Snack before and during alcohol consumption and drink slowly to avoid becoming overly intoxicated.
  • If you are taking any medication, including over-the-counter medications, check with your pharmacist before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can intensify the effects of many medications and drugs and can interact with others, making them ineffective.
  • Do not drink at all if you have a history of alcohol abuse.
  • While extensive research documents the substantial detrimental health effects of excess alcohol intake, there is also significant data suggesting health benefits can be achieved from a light level of drinking. An intake no greater than one drink per day can reduce the incidence of stroke, decrease blood pressure, and may produce other beneficial effects. Talk to your health care provider about your consumption of alcohol.