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Post No.: 0901alcohol

 

Fluffystealthkitten says:

 

Alcohol is highly calorific, containing ~7 calories/gram. Alcohol, along with being ‘empty calories’, makes you want to eat and snack more too – leading to a double-whammy risk of excessive calorie consumption.

 

Drinks like wine contain not only alcohol but often lots of sugar too. Some people assume that lighter-coloured lagers contain far fewer calories compared to dark stouts, perhaps because they appear and feel less ‘dense’ – but the difference is minimal.

 

Fatty, greasy foods will slow down the absorption of alcohol – not because it lines the stomach but because the food will mix with the alcohol in the stomach, and fats take longer to digest than proteins or carbohydrates. This’ll slow down the effects of feeling drunk, yet one will still ultimately be consuming and processing that amount of alcohol in total.

 

Alcohol can change how your body processes carbohydrates and fats to make putting on fat easier. Alcohol burns first, then sugars, then fats, hence consuming alcohol with a meal delays the burning of the sugars consumed from that meal, hence one’s sugar levels will stay elevated in the blood for longer, and may ultimately get stored as fat rather than used up, or contribute to diabetes. While your body is trying to burn off the alcohol, its ability to burn off fat is reduced dramatically, by ~70%.

 

One also needs to be aware of alcohol contents in foods (e.g. in some trifles or sauces) – unless the food is cooked/simmered for a lengthy time then much of it won’t actually evaporate off. The alcohol added to food isn’t alone likely going to be enough to make you drunk but it adds up if one also drinks alcohol with the meal.

 

It’s a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Alcohol reduces one’s prefrontal cortex function, which impairs one’s self-control, which means that one might end up eating more food and thus calories, and smoke cigarettes or other vices, because of this impairment to one’s self-regulation. It depresses the parts of the brain (your inhibitory control) that stop you from doing what you shouldn’t so you tend to take greater risks, say stupid things, and may pick fights over small matters! It can lead to poor judgements and lethal accidents.

 

Whether one becomes more violent, outgoing, chill or whatever after consuming alcohol is more about one’s personal expectations of the effects of alcohol rather than an inherent effect of it. So if you believe that drinking alcohol will make you more violent then, because alcohol will loosen your inhibitions, you’ll more likely allow yourself to be more violent when drunk.

 

You’ll also probably forget what happened (including what and how much you drank or ate) because the part of the brain that encodes memories becomes impaired, as those who’ve ever been blind drunk can attest about their memory gaps after nights out! But it’s not just about these blackouts on the nights you drink heavily – it’s the lasting impacts of chronic and heavy drinking on memory formation due to damage to the hippocampus.

 

Heavy alcohol consumption doesn’t kill brain cells purr se but can destroy their ability to communicate with each other and regrow, which still counts as brain damage I suppose. Any amount of alcohol consumption is certainly most risky during critical brain development periods i.e. when under-age, including when in the womb if one’s mother drinks.

 

Adolescent brains (so up to ~25 years old, arguably) are still developing too, thus drinking excessively as an adolescent, even if over-age, can potentially leave lasting deleterious effects too. Adolescents are more likely to take risks like experimenting with drugs – due to their underdeveloped prefrontal cortices – and are more likely to sustain lasting harmful effects on their brains for doing so. The culture also matters, like a culture where adolescents stigmatise others for not drinking alcohol or peer-pressure each other to competitively drink more and more.

 

Getting drunk less easily isn’t really an advantage, whether it’s down to people’s genes or water volume (their size generally). Alcohol is a mild poison, and a carcinogen (cancer-causing) – so why would it be advantageous for one’s bodily defence system to be tolerant and slow to react to reject it?! It’s like it’s not really an advantage to be able to consume as much as you want and not appear externally obese, because one isn’t receiving good feedback about the damage it’s doing on the inside in terms of one’s visceral fat (e.g. fatty liver disease).

 

Bingeing on alcohol temporarily impairs one’s immune system too, which makes one more susceptible to infections.

 

Some alcoholic drinks, like red wine, have been hyped via the media to contain polyphenols, like resveratrol, that are beneficial to your health. But one must not only take the potential benefits but also the potential costs into account – so there may be some health benefits to drinking some red wine but there are also definitely some costs too. We also have to consider the alternative sources of the beneficial thing that may avoid the costly thing, like unfermented grape juice might offer the same benefits as red wine but with far fewer downsides. Another thing is taking note of how large a dose one must take in order to obtain the reported benefits. Is it realistic to be able to drink that much regularly? Is the benefit negligible compared to the costs and the alternative ways to improve one’s health like exercising more?

 

And findings – like that a glass of wine per day, 5 units per week or a ‘moderate consumption of alcohol’ are correlated with lower rates of heart disease or angina or longer life expectancies in observational studies – can be due to confounding factors like those who tend to regularly drink alcohol are relatively wealthy and it could be more about their socio-economic status (e.g. living in less polluted and rundown areas, being able to afford a better variety of food) that leads to their more favourable health outcomes? Many of those who are (now) teetotal may have been forced to be so because of other existing health problems – including possibly liver damage from excessive alcohol consumption in their pasts!

 

Resveratrol has been clinically shown to not have any ‘anti-ageing’ effects compared to a placebo, and even if you believe that it works then you’d need to drink the equivalent of ~667 bottles of red wine to get the required dosage(!) It’s like a chewy fruit sweet may contain some actual fruit juice but to get enough fruit from these sweets would mean you’d have to consume vast amounts of sugar in the process! It’s one step forwards and two steps back… While we’re here, ginkgo has been clinically shown not to improve memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin have been clinically shown not to improve joint pain. A weak dilution of apple cider vinegar may help lower cholesterol, but none of the other claims stack up. Antioxidant supplements are still controversial – so we’re better off getting our antioxidants from food sources like fruits and vegetables; although green tea or fruit juices won’t alone counteract a junk food diet.

 

Some takeaway lessons are to understand that not all scientific studies are equal (e.g. observational versus experimental studies); to be more cautious of lonely studies that are backed or pushed by for-profit organisations (e.g. ‘health food’ marketers); and to understand that journalists routinely hype-up headlines to make more attention-grabbing stories, whether to play to our hopes or fears. Manufacturers and retailers are biased to emphasise the benefits of their own products, while they fail to shout as equally loud about the risks of them. We ourselves, as news consumers, could also come across a hundred news reports about how harmful alcohol is and consistently pay little attention to them – but give us one report indicating that it might be beneficial and we’ll focus on and tell others about it because it’s what we want to hear! Or we might cherry-pick and latch onto the story of an outlier individual who ostensibly binge-drank or smoked all of her/his life yet managed to live to 90, and believe that we’ll be that lucky as well – which we statistically won’t likely be.

 

A common bias is indeed believing that one won’t be one of those who’ll suffer from cancer, a heart attack or some other serious disease in one’s own life (optimism bias). Most people, especially when young, don’t want to acknowledge these grisly potential long-term outcomes – especially when the alcohol, junk food or lazy lifestyle is giving them so much pleasure right now. So they delude themselves as being somehow statistically exceptional amongst the population, or they just simply deliberately try not to think about the risks much.

 

From the other direction, some people believe that anything they do will be futile (pessimism bias)but drink less alcohol, don’t smoke at all, don’t eat too much red meat, don’t get sunburnt and don’t be obese, and you’ll drastically reduce your chances of getting prostate, lung, bowel and/or breast cancer. No matter the state of our genes – unless something has a 0% or 100% chance of occurring then we can help shape our own outcomes. There are seldom any guarantees in life thus the lifestyle choices we make are mostly about increasing/decreasing the chances of particular things happening.

 

There’s no guarantee that going to a hair salon, buying a new dress and putting makeup on will attract a handsome man – yet many women go through this hopeful rigmarole, repeatedly, even if it keeps failing night after night! We naturally want to have the best odds for achieving the result we want, hence we must live in a way that pushes the odds towards our favour.

 

And often when we take risks, we think that the consequences only affect ourselves – but they very often affect our family, friends and communities too.

 

The latest predominant scientific consensus is that there’s ‘no safe or healthy level’ of positive alcohol consumption, especially for pregnant mothers. One doesn’t need to be regarded as an ‘alcoholic’ to have liver disease. If one is a heavy drinker, any abstinence from or reduction in alcohol for any amount of time will have beneficial effects for one’s health across the board.

 

We can also irrationally be extremely worried about a minor harm or risk yet neglect the greater harms and risks present in our lives, like being worried about plastics leaching into our foods whilst one is drinking too much alcohol, smoking, eating a load of junk and/or not exercising! (EU regulations mean that the plastics used in food packaging are safe for food, although of course like absolutely anything else – within sensible limits.)

 

The self-reporting bias occurs when we report less than what we actually consumed or report more activity than what we actually did. And alcohol consumption is frequently under-self-reported. More objective tests by testing people’s urine are more reliable.

 

In short, a moderate consumption of alcohol as an adult may be fine – but you can definitely live as healthily as you can completely without it. Alcohol is ultimately a drug – and a highly addictive one too.

 

I may be a feline and alcohol isn’t safe for me hence my stance on alcohol (and drunkards) is the way it is. But it’s also written in the scientific literature. It’s not only about what you consume that’s good for you but what you consume that’s bad for you – so some alcoholic beverages may contain some desirable compounds and antioxidants but plenty of undesirable alcohol and calories too.

 

And it cannot feel nice to be someone who feels that they cannot be social or fun without alcohol, or calm without smoking or vaping, or have a good Christmas without it being expensive, and similar. It’s kind of like being someone who feels that they cannot ever ride a bicycle without training wheels, or ever be confident without stuffing their underwear!

 

Meow. I believe you can be confident and merry without drinking.

 

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