Relationship between alcohol and Obesity

Medicine Globally by Dr. Rene Menguy



Dr. René Menguy


One cannot overestimate the role played by alcohol in our lives. There are those who consider it evil. However, alcohol belongs to nature; it’s there and no more evil than salt or water with which we can also have misadventures.

Before I moved to Naples from up North, I noticed that every fall, birds kept crashing into the window of my study. Looking into this, I found them feasting on wild cherries. Tasting one, I detected a slight taste of fermentation. Of course; the birds were simply getting drunk. Yeah, just like us.

After a drink, a liver enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, breaks down alcohol at an average rate of 1 ounce per hour by converting it to acetaldehyde. The latter, also toxic, is then broken down by another enzyme that is only partially developed in certain racial groups, particularly Asian. In those, alcohol often causes an intense facial flush called the “Asian Flush, a phenomenon I first noticed on March 9, 1945 while lying in a gutter, being rifle-butted by several of his Emperors finest.

Without those mechanisms with which we were created, we would be unable to consume alcohol.

How does alcohol affect our health and weight? Firstly, alcohol in moderation does not cause obesity and on the whole is probably good for us. What’s a dinner without a glass of wine?

A recent study conducted at the University of South Carolina showed that, when middle-aged individuals, without a history of alcohol consumption, began to drink moderately (1 to 2 drinks a day), their risk of cardiac morbidity decreased immediately. The study also showed that those drinking only wine benefited the most. This property is attributed to certain chemicals in wine, called flavonols that lower blood levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol.

Much has been written lately about another anti oxidant called resveratrol Found mainly in grapes and peanuts but also in fruits and vegetables, this substance has been credited for the so-called French paradox to which I alluded in a prior posting. However, that and other claims remain unproven.

Moderate alcohol consumption causes euphoria, a pleasant feeling of relaxation, and releases whatever inhibitions we have, something summed up in a old saying: “In vino Veritas”; we say things that, coming from us, are inappropriate, or are out of the contexte of the conversation, a behavior seen only in a social setting. The euphoric phase of ethanol consumption occurs at a blood level of 0.3 to 0.12 depending on one’s age, the rate of drinking, weight and sex. Blood levels of alcohol increase less in overweight people and heavily muscled individuals. Remember that the legal limit of 0.8 is easily reached in thin people after the rapid consumption of two drinks.
Here come the caveats:

Minors shouldn’t drink.

Because it’s a leading cause of birth defects, alcohol must be avoided during pregnancy.

Avoid taking Tylenol after drinking. The combination of Tylenol and alcohol can cause liver damage.

Asthmatics should check the sulfite content of their wine. Some asthmatics are allergic to the sulfite preservatives in wine.

Don't drink if you have GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Because alcohol stimulates stomach acid, a dinner "lubricated" with alcohol will bring about symptoms of reflux.

Anyone experiencing severe pain in the pit of the stomach after drinking should see a doctor immediately. Alcohol can cause a potentially lethal inflammation of the pancreas, called acute pancreatitis. .

Some people suffer from "second sleep insomnia"; they fall asleep easily but soon wake up and can't get back to sleep. Avoiding heavy drinking during and after dinner often corrects the problem.

What about drinking a “cold one” after strenuous exercise on a hot day? Under these conditions, our bodies try to replenish our body fluids by reducing urine production, a mechanism which alcohol, a potent diuretic, works against by increasing urine output.

Finally, heavy drinking causes obesity. A "six pack" of beer increases one’s caloric intake by at least 900 calories, without the “munchies”. Not a healthy lifestyle.

Does alcohol have any nutritional value? None! It provides empty calories, i.e. energy, without the vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Those with weight problems must factor into their diets the caloric contribution of alcohol.

Caloric content of alcoholic beverages:

●12 ounces of beer, 150 Cal
●5 ounces of wine 100 Cal
●1.5 ounces of the following: ( 80 proof liquor (Scotch, bourbon, rum, gin and vodka) 100 Cal
●one Manhattan, 250 -- 300 Cal.

To be continued

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