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General Nutrition and Diet Facts

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Alcohol and diet

 

Alternative names

Liquor; Diet - alcohol

Definition

Alcohol comes from fermenting starches and sugars. When consumed, alcohol depresses your nervous system and acts as a mild anesthetic and tranquilizer. It is toxic in large quantities.

Function

Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram. These are considered "empty" calories because alcohol contains no beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
A 12-ounce beer contains about 150 calories. Sugary, carbonated beverages and fruit juices contribute additional calories when mixed with alcohol in a cocktail.
Beers, wines, and liquors all contain different amounts of alcohol. In general, a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor have about the same amount of alcohol and the same number of calories.
Beer is 3-8% alcohol. "Light" or lower-calorie beers are closer to 3% alcohol. "Hard" liquors contain about 40% alcohol and tend to be higher in calories.
White wines average 12% alcohol, and red wines average 14% alcohol.
"Proof" means the alcohol content of distilled liquors. It is the percentage of alcohol multiplied by two. For example:
  • 50% alcohol = 100-proof
  • 100% alcohol = 200-proof
Side Effects

Alcohol is an addictive substance. It is a leading cause of traffic accidents in the United States because it slows reaction time and impairs judgment.
The liver detoxifies (or metabolizes) alcohol.
Moderate drinking is defined as 1 - 2 glasses of beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverage daily. Moderate alcohol consumption, especially when combined with a Mediterranean-style diet, has been shown to improve cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) health.
Continued, excessive use of alcohol, however, can damage the liver. It can cause alcoholic hepatitis and a fatty liver. A fatty liver can progress to cirrhosis of the liver, a potentially fatal condition.
Alcohol increases the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, throat, larynx, mouth, and breast.
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 and absorbed. Alcohol also requires vitamins in its metabolism and interferes with the absorption and storage of 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

If you drink alcohol, it is best to do so in moderation. This is defined as not causing intoxication, and consuming no more than one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor per day if you are a woman and no more than two if you are a man.
Drinking excessively can substantially harm your health. Long-term and excessive use of alcohol may lead to alcoholism -- a major health and social problem. "Problem drinking" (such as drinking and driving) is very risky. Being intoxicated can endanger yourself and others. It is a major contributing factor in all forms of trauma.

Harmful effects during pregnancy

For the safety of your baby, NEVER DRINK ALCOHOL DURING PREGNANCY. Alcohol in the bloodstream of the mother crosses the placenta and reaches the fetus. This can cause a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome ( failure to grow after birth, reduced IQ, malformed facial features, and life-long disability). Fetal alcohol syndrome can be prevented by avoiding alcohol completely during pregnancy.

Responsible drinking

Here are some ways to drink responsibly, provided you DO NOT have a drinking problem, are of legal age to drink alcohol, and are not pregnant:
  • 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.
  • DO NOT drink on an empty stomach. Snack before and during alcohol consumption.
  • Drink slowly to avoid becoming intoxicated and ONLY in moderation.
  • If you are taking medication, including over-the-counter drugs, check with your pharmacist before drinking alcohol. Alcohol can intensify the effects of many drugs and can interact with other drugs, making them ineffective or dangerous or you sick.
  • DO NOT drink at all if you have a history of alcohol abuse.
If alcoholism runs in your family, you may be at increased risk of developing alcoholism yourself, and may want to avoid alcohol consumption altogether.
Being drunk decreases your inhibitions, making you more likely to do things you may regret later. When intoxicated, you are significantly more likely to endanger your health or that of others, more likely to acquire a sexually transmitted disease, more likely to be involved in an automobile accident, and more likely to become permanently injured or die.

 


 
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