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Alcohol in the Body

Posted by Monica Monedero on November 14, 2014 at 7:00 PM

This article provides information on how drinking alcohol affects the body and dieting. The book Understanding Nutrition, eleventh edition, was used as a source for this information.

 

 

When alcohol enters the body, unlike food, the body does not require time to digest it. Alcohol is quickly absorbed across the wall of an empty stomach, reaching the brain within a few minutes. This explains why we all know we should consume food before drinking!

 

 

The stomach begins to break down alcohol using the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme. The enzyme varies by person and by race depending on the genes each person has inherited. Women produce less of this stomach enzyme than men. Consequently, more alcohol reaches a woman’s intestine for absorption into the bloodstream, and thus women have a lower tolerance for alcohol than men.

 

 

Alcohol is metabolized primarily in the liver. If more alcohol arrives at the liver than the enzymes can handle, the extra alcohol travels to all parts of the body, circulating again and again until the liver enzymes are finally available to process it. If you are going to drink, a good tip to control your intake is to limit the number of drinks before you start and drink no more than one drink per hour. This gives the enzymes in your liver time to process the alcohol. Keep an eye on your watch!!

 

 

Alcohol alters both how the body synthesizes amino acid and protein. Synthesis of proteins important in the immune system slows down, weakening the body's defenses against infection. Eating well does not protect the drinker from protein depletion; a person must stop drinking alcohol before the body will resume its natural rate of protein synthesis.

 

 

Alcohol is rich in energy (7 calories per gram) (we are talking "calorie energy" here). As with pure sugar or fat, the calories are empty of nutrients. Alcohol's contribution to body fat is most evident in the central obesity that commonly accompanies alcohol consumption. In other words, it is a large contributor to belly fat! It displaces nutrients from the diet and interferes with the body's metabolism of nutrients.


"In general, alcohol intake is associated with bigger waists, because when you drink alcohol, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat," says Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrine expert and obesity researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

 

Those are a few of the facts. So how do we handle this sticky situation while trying to diet? Unfortunately, the best thing would be to stop drinking while dieting. Then, once the desired weight has been reached, slowly introduce it back into your diet on a moderate level and pay close attention to how it affects your weight and appetite.

 

 

The next best thing would be to limit drinking to no more than once or twice a week, or, even better, only on special occasions. Keep in mind that tip above about deciding how much you will drink during a certain occasion and limit drinks to no more than one per hour until you have reached that maximum number of drinks. Also, try not to drink sugary mixed drinks like the liqueurs used in, for example, restaurant Margaritas (try my Healthy Margarita recipe under the Vitamix blender tab), Lemon Drop and Apple Martinis, and Long Island Ice Teas. These just compound the dietary problem.

 

 

Other Tips:

 

Intersperse your wine, beer, or low-calorie drink with water or sparkling water between each drink.

Tell your friends and family you are trying to diet and seek their support of your limited drinking while trying to reach your desired weight.

Add water, ice, or club soda to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed.

 

Categories: Foods To Eat/Nutrition Articles

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