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I love a drink. I don’t do it every day, and I don’t binge drink either, but I do love an icy cold beer on a hot day or a lovely glass of red on a cold winters night. So I get it. BUT it is sometimes easy to forgot that it is a poison. So in honour of all those participating in Dry July this year, lets go through a few hard facts:
What is it?
Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is made through a process called fermentation. During fermentation, yeast breaks sugar down into ethanol and carbon dioxide. This process is done without any air present and once complete, the carbon dioxide gas bubbles out into the air, leaving ethanol and water behind.
What does your body do with alcohol?
Alcohol is not an essential nutrient and therefore, has nowhere to be stored in your body. So as soon as it enters your system, your body will begin the process of metabolizing it. Which means that everything else will stop being metabolized in order to first metabolise the alcohol. Your liver is the primary site for alcohol metabolism; this is why you can have liver problems from consuming too much alcohol. Alcohol is detoxified and removed from the blood through a process called oxidation. Oxidation prevents the alcohol from accumulating and destroying cells and organs. A healthy liver oxidizes pure ethanol at the rate of about 10ml per hour.
Alcohol and your waistline
We know that drinking affects your weight. It contains calories with no nutritional benefit AND it causes you to eat more after consuming alcohol. A standard beer has 150 calories, and a shot of vodka 96 calories. Think late night kebabs after a few drinks on the town, and you have really had a night filled with unnecessary calories.
Does alcohol affect blood sugar?
The sugar in your blood, called blood glucose is maintained in your body by insulin and glucogen. If your blood glucose drops your body makes more or burns up stored sugar, and if your blood glucose rises, insulin brings it back into line. But when you drink, your body considers alcohol a poison and immediately starts the process the remove it, which means all blood glucose maintenance is stopped. Overtime, excessive alcohol consumption can decrease insulin effectiveness resulting in high blood sugar levels. It can also cause low blood sugar when you consume a lot on an empty stomache, as it impairs the hormonal response to regulate you blood sugar.
Is there any upside?
In moderation, there have been some reported benefits of alcohol. Some say that red wine does contain a good dose on antioxidants. There are certain substances in red wine that may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of good cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. But before you reach for the bottle, these studies have only been conducted in animals and not humans.