Alcohol and Your Health

Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle


How aware are you of your own alcohol consumption?

How much does alcohol affect your daily life or the lives of those around you?

Alcohol is a macronutrient, though it in itself contains no vitamins or minerals. It does contain calories, 7 calories per gram, to be exact. Carbohydrates and protein have four calories per gram, and fat has nine. This chart by the University of Illinois can help you see how many calories you consume in popular drinks. Keep in mind that your bar tender may be making you drinks twice this size. Notably, a typical 8 ounce margarita is 371 calories. Your favorite restaurant probably serves 12-24 ounces. Talk about a diet buster!

What about the health benefits of certain alcohols?

Of the common drinks, red wine is a star. Red wine boasts more resveratrol than any other food or drink. Resveratrol is a very powerful antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes. This antioxidant can prevent damage to blood vessels, which can reduce cholesterol and risk for heart disease.

Even other types of alcohol, though, are linked to reducing risk of heart disease, even without resveratrol. It is also linked to reduction in risk of strokes, diabetes, and gallstones. There’s a but to all of this, and it’s a big BUT:

Alcohol is only beneficial in moderate use. Moderate use is defined by ONE DRINK PER DAY for women, and possibly as much as two for men. This does not mean that you can skip a day and double up on your dosage! Drinking more alcohol in one day negates the positive outcomes, and sometimes can actually increase risk of stroke, hypertension, depression, cancer, and liver disease.

Heavy drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control of the United States as more than one drink per day for women, and more than two per day for men. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks at one occasion for women, and five for men. Any kind of excessive drinking can result in unintentional injuries to one’s self or those around him. Alcohol plays a role in domestic violence in 35% of the cases, though this may be under-reported.

Women who intend to become pregnant should avoid alcohol, simply because a woman does not know she is pregnant usually until she is several weeks along. Within the first few weeks of pregnancy, precious brain tissue is being developed. A pregnant woman that drinks increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on her child, as well as an increased risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.

SML TIP: Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month, if you think that you have a problem, and you are having trouble slowing down or stopping on your own, contact AA or NCADD for help. For information and self help, try the Help Guide. Or, find a psychologist or counselor near you.

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