Alcohol and Health

Dr. T. K. Munshi
Beverage alcohol has benefits as well as side effects. The benefits are strongly linked to what is called moderate drinking – – no more than two drinks a day for a man. The risks generally arise from excessive drinking. Moderate amounts of alcohol not only reduce stress but also appear to have beneficial effects on various parts of the human body.
How alcohol moves through the body : Alcohol flows directly through your body’s membrane into your blood stream, which carries alcohol to nearly every       organ in your body. As alcohol flows down from mouth to stomach, some alcohol is absorbed through the lining of the mouth and throat, but most of the alcohol you drink spills into your stomach, where an enzyme, gastric alcohol dehydrogenase (gADH) begins to digest it. A certain amount of unmetabolized alcohol flows through the stomach walls into the blood-stream and on to the small intestine.
Liver’s role :  Most of the alcohol you drink flows through a large blood vessel into the liver. There ADH an enzyme metabolizes the alcohol which is then converted to energy by a co-enzyme called NAD.
The normal healthy liver can process about half ounce of pure alcohol (that is almost 9 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of spirits) in an hour. The rest flows on to your heart.
Heart’s role :  When it enters the heart, alcohol reduces the force with which the heart muscle contracts. Blood vessels all over your body relax and blood pressure goes down temporarily but returns to normal in half an hour. As it circulates in blood, alcohol raises the level of high density lipoproteins (HDLs), although not the specific good (useful) ones that carry cholesterol out of your body. Alcohol also makes blood less likely to clot, temporarily reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Alcohol makes blood vessels expand, so more warm blood flows to the surface of the skin. You feel warmer for a while, and you may flush and turn pink.
Alcohol is a sedative :  When it reaches your brain, it shows the transmission of impulses between the new cells that control your ability to think and move; one loses the judgment on road. Most people need an hour to metabolize the amount of alcohol (half an ounce) in one drink. Nevertheless, some people have alcohol circulating in their blood for upto three hours, after taking a drink.
Moderate drinking : Benefits and risks :  Moderate amounts of alcohol not only reduce stress but also appear to have beneficial effects on various parts of the human body. A study published in the journal, ” Arthritis and Rheumatism “, in 2010, suggested that moderate drinking might slow the progress of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
In a 12 year study by the American Cancer Society, it was found that moderate alcohol intake had an ‘apparent protective effect on coronary heart disease.’ In other words, men who drink moderately lower the risk of heart attacks.
One drink a day:  A Harvard Nurses’ Health study showed that women who have one drink a day are less likely to die of heart attack than those who don’t drink at all. Moderate drinkers (one or two drinks a day) have lower risk than teetotalers of developing Type 2 diabetes. Another study shows that men who drink moderately ( 2 drinks a day) also are less likely to die of clot-related stroke.
Relation between alcohol and cancer :   National Cancer Institute of US, labels alcohol, in conjunction with smoking as a clear risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat (esophagus, pharynx,larynx) and liver. Researchers at University of Oklahoma say that men who drink five or more beers a day, double their risk of rectal cancer. American Cancer Society (ACS) statsitics show a higher risk of breast cancer among women who have more than three drinks a week. The simple fact is that moderate drinkers appear to live longer healthier lives than teetotalers or alcohol abusers. Drinkers need to be thinkers :   Drinking too much can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure, certain types of cancers, liver disorder, accidental injuries and depression. A recent federal report in US, found that 1 in 10 deaths among adults can be linked to excessive alcohol use.
Track your drinks :   Keep count of how many drinks you consume, and know how much alcohol counts as one ‘drink’, that amounts to 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Pace the space :   Sip slowly so you have no more than one alcoholic beverage per hour. Also try to eat while you drink. Alcohol is absorbed more slowly when there is food in your belly.
Who should not drink :    People who plan to drive or do work that requires both attention and skill — operating a sewing machine or auto repairing — need not be drinkers. Women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in near future, can cause birth defects in babies born to female alcoholics.
People who take certain prescription drugs or medication :   Alcohol makes some drugs stronger, increase some drugs’ side effects, and renders other drugs less effective. Analgesics, anti-arthritis drugs, anti-depressants, antibiotics, antidiabetic, and antihypertension drugs do interact with alcohol, yielding adverse results.