Good nutrition can help improve your health and prevent diseases and also energizes your body in order to function properly. Just as a car needs fuel to move, your body also needs the nutrients, like, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. Some people believe that alcohol is another necessity in their diet, while others consider any amount of alcohol is harmful and needs to be avoided.
Nutrition serves two purposes: one is to provide energy and the second is to maintain body structure and function. Food supplies energy and provides the building blocks needed to replace worn out or damaged cells and the nutritional components required for body function.
Alcohol has become a part of everything, from family dinners to parties, to sporting events and nightcaps. The problems related to alcoholism are quite known, but what about the influence of social drinking or a moderate intake of alcohol?
Alcohol is regarded as a source of empty calories as it provides only slight amount of vitamins and minerals. As alcohol often replaces food enriched with nutrients and directly affects body’s absorption, storage, and use of nutrients, it has also been called the “antinutrient nutrient.”
In case of chronic drinkers, ethanol decreases the appetite, displaces other foods from the diet, and lowers down the value of food by disrupting digestion and absorption. When nutrients are absorbed, alcohol prevents them from being completely utilized by the body by altering their transport, metabolism, and storage. Consequently, patients hospitalized for medical conditions due to alcoholism may be extremely malnourished alo0ng with lack of protein. Such medical complications, mainly liver disease, were because of nutritional deficits.
How is alcohol metabolized?
The nutrients such as, protein, carbohydrates, and fat can be stored in our bodies, but alcohol cannot can’t be stored and this is why, it is given priority over everything else to facilitate metabolism; and this indicates that all of the other processes that should be taking place are being interrupted. Other nutrients need to be broken up before being absorbed, whereas alcohol is absorbed as it is.
The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase starts metabolizing alcohol in the stomach. Women contain less of this enzyme, so alcohol passes through their stomachs and into their bloodstream faster than in men. Once alcohol is absorbed, it spreads quickly into the body water spaces, so the smaller size and higher body fat substance of women raise its levels. Women body can metabolize about 10% of the alcohol ingested, while men metabolize about 30% of alcohol.
At the time of metabolism, alcohol is spread throughout the body, disturbing the brain and other tissues. Within minutes of being ingested, alcohol reaches the brain and primarily gives the transitory impression of being a stimulant. Alcohol continues acting as a depressant and a sedative, producing calmness. It will also serve the purpose of an anesthetic and hypnotic.
Alcohol and the Maintenance of Cell Structure and Function:
Cells are made mainly made of protein. Therefore sufficient protein diet is imperative for maintaining cell structure, particularly if cells are being worn out. Research shows that alcohol interferes with protein nutrition causing impaired digestion of proteins to amino acids, impaired processing of amino acids by the small intestine and liver, impaired synthesis of proteins from amino acids, and impaired protein secretion by the liver.
Nutrients are vital for proper body function; proteins, vitamins, and minerals enable the body to perform properly. Alcohol can disturb body functioning properly by causing nutrient deficiencies and by usurping the machinery required to metabolize nutrients.
Vitamins – Vitamins are indispensable to maintain growth and normal metabolism as they control many physiological processes. Chronic heavy drinking causes deficiencies in many vitamins because of decreased food intake and, in some cases, impaired absorption, metabolism, and utilization.
Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins, also deficient in some alcoholics, all contribute in wound healing and cell maintenance.
Minerals – Lack of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc are common in alcoholics, although alcohol itself does not seem to disrupt the absorption of these minerals. Rather, deficiencies seem to take place secondary to other alcohol-related health problems: decreased calcium absorption because of fat malabsorption; magnesium deficiency due to decreased ingestion, augmented urinary emission, vomiting, and diarrhea; iron deficiency connected with gastrointestinal bleeding; and zinc malabsorption or losses related to other nutrient deficiencies.
Alcohol, Malnutrition, and Medical Complications
Liver Disease: Although alcoholic liver damage is primarily due to alcohol itself, poor nutrition may enhance the risk of alcohol-related liver damage. For instance, nutrients generally found in the liver, such as carotenoids, the major sources of vitamin A, and vitamin E compounds, are known to be affected by alcohol consumption.
Pancreatitis: Research reveals that malnutrition may heighten the risk of having alcoholic pancreatitis, but some research performed outside the United States associates pancreatitis more closely with overeating. Primary research reveals that alcohol’s adverse effect on the pancreas may be exacerbated by a protein-deficient diet.
Brain: Nutritional deficiencies may have severe and lasting effects on brain function. Specifically, thiamine deficiencies, often found in alcoholics, can result in severe neurological disorders such as impaired movement and memory loss evident in Wernicke / Korsakoff syndrome.
Pregnancy: Alcohol has direct toxic influence on fetal development, causing birth defects related to alcohol, including fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol itself is lethal to the fetus, but in addition with nutritional deficiency it can affect fetal development, perhaps twice increasing the risk of developmental damage.
- Can result in elevated blood pressure
- Cardiomyopathy- worn out and weakened heart muscle
- Momentary memory loss (blackouts)
- Loss of consciousness or coma
- Double vision
- Permanent damage together with pain and loss of sensation in the arms and legs and lack of intelligence.
Does alcohol impact your weight?
Your body has a set number of calories required and that must be consumed to sustain your weight. This need depends upon your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level. When you consume more calories than your body demands, you will consequently gain weight. Alcohol provides considerable amount of calories in a small volume and can end up being a source of unnecessary extra calories and weight gain.
A study revealed a 20% increase in calories consumed at a meal when alcohol was consumed prior to the meal. Calorie increases by 33% when the calories from the alcohol were added. These extra calories can very easily help weight gain over a short period of time.
Does alcohol belong to our diet, or does the risk that it presents outweigh any benefits that may be derived from consuming it?
Alcohol is not regarded as a crucial component in a healthy diet. Instead, it provides a lot of calories and badly affects many aspects of your health. If you decide to consume alcohol, you will need to set the quantity and frequency first. You will also have to calculate the calories generated from alcohol in any diet plan. You can control calorie intake in your drink by selecting those containing less alcohol and a limited amount of sweetened beverages. Flavored seltzers or water may help you save many calories.
There has been a link stated between alcohol and decreased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). This is because alcohol helps raise the levels of high density lipoprotein (HDL), cholesterol and reduces plasma fibrinogen levels, which play a significant role in blood clotting.
A Danish study including 27,178 men and 29,875 women who were free of CHD monitored their intake of alcohol over 5.7 years. The men who drank the maximum amount alcohol were less susceptible to CHD. One drink a week reduced the risk approximately by 7%, two to four drinks by 22%, and five or six drinks a week by 29%. Those who drank daily had a 41% lower risk of heart disease than those who did not drink at all. The women also went through a decrease in risk, but the frequency of drinking did not have the same influence as with the men. One drink a week lowered the risk by 36%, but daily drinking lowered the risk factor by 35%. The limitation to this study included that binge drinking and the numbers of drinks at each occasion were not taken into account. The pattern of drinking seems crucial for the possible cardioprotective effect of alcohol, and the risk of CHD is generally less for steady versus binge drinking. Higher drinking levels heighten the possibility of death from cancer, liver cirrhosis, trauma, including other variety of heart diseases.