Limiting alcohol intake

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 | In Information | Tags: ,

Limiting alcohol intake
~ Limiting alcohol intake ~

In ancient times, people have attributed a variety of health “benefits” to moderate consumption of fermented beverages such as wine and beer. Even today, alcohol is still being used around the world as part of modern and traditional medical preparations.

But it is not secret that excessive alcohol consumption is linked to increased risk of morbidity and mortality as well as home-and-work-related and traffic accidents. Gaziano and Buring (1998) suggest that a higher risk of death at heavy drinking level is due to increased risk of cancer, liver diseases, cardiomyopathy and stroke.

Heart disease
Many studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol consumption (one to two dinks per day) may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). But a sharp increase in CVD is associated with three or more drinks per day.

However, Hansel et al (2012) claim that the latest research findings of CVD protection by alcohol consumption may be based partly on misclassification of research data. Since there is no current data directly support a cause-and-effect relationship between alcohol intake and cardiovascular health, it seems premature to promote wine consumption as a basis for CVD protection.

Wine does seem to raise the good high density lipoprotein cholesterol. (HDL-C) level and it also favorably influences thrombotic (blood clotting) factors. Indeed, Hansen et al (2005) estimate that wine (not other alcoholic beverages) consumption may improve HDL-C by 11% to 16% and fasting fibrinogen by 8% to 15%.

Additionally, it may exert beneficial effects on the heart by decreasing platelet agreeability. But studies have shown adverse effects too, particularly at higher doses. Blood pressure can be raised leading to hypertension and alcohol damages the myocardium leading to arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) and myocardiopathy (heart muscle disorders).

The so-called French Paradox has led many to believe that wine is the only protective alcoholic beverage for CVD. While organic red wine may contain resveratrol and possesses antioxidants or anticoagulant effects, ecological studies have shown that other alcoholic beverages also have similar “benefits”.

This means that the so-called benefits of consuming a small quantity of alcohol could come from beer, whisky, brandy or rice wine. In general, to derive maximum benefits, the safe amount to consume is less than one drink a day for Asian men. The American Heart Association limits alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.

Liver disorders
Through the fermentation process, sugar is converted by yeast into alcohol. When alcohol is consumed, it is converted by liver enzymes back into sugar since our body treats alcohol as a poison. The liver may sustain accumulated damage during this conversion process through chronic consumption as evidenced by elevated liver enzymes and cirrhosis – a major prerequisite for hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer).

Like excessively sweet fruits, alcohol also strongly promotes the formation of fatty liver. Lipid (fat) accumulation and impaired regulation of immunity and impaired antiviral and autoimmune responses are considered to be the main mechanisms of alcoholic liver injury.

Cigarette smoking and chronic hepatitis B viral infection seem to be independently linked to increased risk of death from liver cancer since they do not seem to interact synergistically to worsen liver conditions.

Brain intoxication
According to Blanco and Guetti (2007), the brain is one of the major target organs of alcohol actions and its chronic and acute intoxication can result in major alterations in our brain structure and function and to neurodegeneration (gradual death of brain neurons).

Alcohol-related cancers
The international Agency for Research for Cancer classifies alcohol consumption as carcinogenic for humans. According to the European Code Against Cancer, any level of alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. There seems to be no minimal risk level.

The metabolism of alcohol leads to the generation of acetaldehyde (AA) and free radicals. AA is likely to be responsible for alcohol-linked initiation and promotion of cancer. Unknown to many people, AA can also be produced by our oral and faecal bacteria. Smoking, which changes the oral bacterial flora and poor oral hygiene also increase AA levels.

Alcohol also raises estrogen levels responsible in part for breast and prostate cancers. Complementary medicine recommends that drinkers have their liver enzymes and tumor markers tested once a year. Only a licensed therapist should be consulted for adjunct treatment for elevated liver enzymes and for preventive measures against alcoholic damage.

Information via theSun newspaper.


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