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french paradox, red wine, heart protector, heart disease, free radicals, antioxidants


What alcoholic beverage to drink?
Klatsky and Armstrong recorded the lowest risk of CHD mortality among those who drank wine, compared with those preferring other alcoholic beverages, especially at higher rates of consumption. And, when 16 healthy subjects were given pure alcohol, white wine, or red wine (for 15 days for each beverage), they found that pure alcohol enhanced platelet aggregation. But red wine led to a fall in ADP-induced (platelet) aggregation and increased HDL-cholesterol, clearly the most favorable response of the three beverages tested.

Klurfield and Kritchevsky fed rabbits an atherogenic diet together with water (controls), or one of five different beverages containing equal amounts of ethanol. After 3 months, all the “controls” rabbits had developed atherosclerotic lesions in the coronary arteries. Alcoholic beverages, except beer, reduced the incidence of such lesions, but the most dramatic reduction (up to 40%) occurred in the rabbits receiving red wine. This is just a sampling of the evidence that shows that it is primarily red wine, not spirits or beer, that is heart-friendly.

Yet red wine contains alcohol, and alcohol, especially through its chief metabolite, acetaldehyde, is a powerful and broad-acting metabolic toxin, with liver damage being just the tip of the iceberg of its destructive effects. It became clear by the early 1990’s that something seemingly specific to red wine provided significant heart protection. Nutritional scientists began searching to find the active ingredient(s).

How much to drink?
The size of a drink is important. Different types of alcoholic beverage hold different amounts of pure alcohol by volume. For instance, an once of beer has less pure alcohol than an once of hard liquor. Most beer is only 5% alcohol ("Lite" beer has slightly less. "Strong" beer has slightly more). So an 8-once glass of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a 4-once glass of wine, which is 10-12% alcohol or a 1-once shot of vodka, whiskey or brandy, which is 38-40% alcohol.

We can say that alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. The difference lies mostly in the dose. For a designation of a correct doze we use the term "Moderate drinking". This is the point at which the health benefits of alcohol clearly outweigh the risks. Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones.

In the US, drinking in moderation means one glass for women, and one to two glasses for men.
The definition of moderation is different in countries. The "sensible limits" in the UK and EU are two to three glasses of red wine per day for women and three to four glasses for men. Moderate drinking - this will depend on your age, size, sex and health, how and when you consume alcohol as both the speed of consumption and drinking with food will effect the absorption of alcohol. Guidelines are daily, rather than weekly as you should not 'save up' units and drink heavily at weekends, this is defined as binge drinking which increases your blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke.

This table (Table 1) helps you to calculate your alcohol consumption more precisely, if you will calculate
amounts of pure alcohol in grams per day. Moderate consumption of alcohol per day for women is not more 30 g and not more 40 g for men.

Beer
5-7%
Liter
g
kcal
0.33
4%
13
99
0.33
5%
17
148
0.33
7%
23
205
0.5
4%
20
150
0.5
5%
25
224
0.5
7%
35
310
Wine
12%
Liter
g
kcal
0.10
12
84
0.15
18
126
0.18
22
151
0.20
24
168
0.37
45
310
0.75
90
630
Whisky, vodka,
gin 40 %
Liter
g
kcal
0.03
12
73
0.04
16
97
0.05
20
120


Martini,
vermut
16-18%
Liter
g
kcal
0.03
5
30.6
0.05
9
51
Table 1

Alcohol and Obesity
Excess alcohol consumption and obesity are related. Alcohol intake can increase total energy intake because it provides 7 kcal per gram and often stimulates appetite. The calories from alcohol add up quickly, and they go straight to the fat in your abdomen. Therel are Empty Calories, which have no nutrient value. It has been proven that one beer every night adds 1,036 additional calories per week, or 15 pounds to your stomach per year. No wonder they call it a beer belly. Three glasses of dry wine a week will cost you 318 calories, or an additional three miles on the treadmill just to walk off the extra calories.
(The energy content of selected alcoholic beverages is shown on table 1.)

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and liver function
Alcohol is absorbed quickly, as it does not require digestion by the stomach. The effects of alcohol may appear within 10 minutes after consumption and peak at approximately 40 to 60 minutes. Alcohol remains in the bloodstream until it is broken down by the liver. If an individual consumes alcohol at a faster rate than it can be broken down by the liver, the blood alcohol concentration level rises.
You will probably be surprised to learn how much time it takes for your body to eliminate alcohol from the bloodstream even though you can raise your BAC quickly by slamming drinks. BAC goes down at a slow and predictable rate. (Table 2) This is because your liver can only metabolize a predictable blood alcohol concentration per hour. The liver is the principle agent when it comes to metabolizing free radicals and other toxins in the body. Heavy drinking has been shown to damage it. It can cause inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis) and lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), a potentially fatal disease.
The liver gets rid of alcohol at the average rate of one drink per hour (12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 1 shot of distilled liquor). If a person drinks faster than this, the r emainder will circulate in the blood stream until the liver can get rid of it.
Heavier people will be less affected by the same amount of alcohol than lighter people. They have more blood and water in their bodies in which to dilute the alcohol.
The BAC rises more rapidly in those who drink on an empty stomack, because there is no food in which to dilute the alcohol.
The stronger a drink is the more quickly it is absorbed. This partially explains why hard liquor has more of an apparent “ kick” than wine or beer.
Water and fruit juices mixed with alcohol slow the absorption process, while carbonated beverages will speed it up. Carbon dioxide speeds the alcohol through the stomack and intestine into the bloodstream, creating a rapid rise in BAC.
Warm alcohol is absorbed quicker than cold alcohol.
Men and women eliminate alcohol from the body at different rates.
Generally, it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours for a 150 lb. woman to metabolize one drink, whereas a 150 lb. man requires about 1 to 1.25 hours. (based on drinks containing .6 ounces of alcohol).
Women reach higher BAC’s faster because they have less water in their bodies and more adipose tissue (fat), which is not easily penetrated by alcohol. Therefore, a man and woman, with all other factors being equal, both drinking the same amount of alcohol will have different BAC levels. Hers will be higher. A woman’s menstrual cycle will also affect her rate of absorption. They will experience their highest BAC’s premenstrually. In addition, there is also evidence that a woman taking birth control pills, will absorb alcohol faster, resulting in higher BAC levels.

How long to eliminate alcohol from your system? Hours to Zero BAC (Blood alcohol concentration)
Beer
0.33 liter
= 1 hour, 40 minutes
0.50 liter
= 3 hours
1 liter
= 6 hours
Liquor
0.05 liter
= 3 hours, 30 minutes
0.10 liter
= 4 hours, 40 minutes
3 x 0.05 liter
= 7 hours
Wine
0.10 liter
= 1 hour, 20 minutes
0.20 liter
= 2 hours, 35minutes
0.50 liter
= 6 hours, 40 minutes
Vodka
0.05 liter
= 3 hours
0.10 liter
= 5 hours
0.20 liter
= 12 hours
Sparkling wine
0.20 liter
= 3 hours, 12minutes
0.50 liter
= 8 hours

Whisky

0.05 liter
= 3 hour, 40 minutes
2 x 0.05 liter
= 7 hours, 20 minutes
Table 2

Alcohol and cancer
Heavy drinking can increase the chances of developing cancer. It has been linked with several, particularly those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, ovarian and breast. People who drink heavily and smoke tobacco products are at even higher risk for these cancers.

Alcohol and pregnancy
Research has linked the heavy drinking during pregnancy with the medical condition in children called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS is characterized by three diagnostic criteria-reduced growth, craniofacial and neurological abnormalities and certain cardiac, central nervous system, limb and urogenital malformations. Studies have shown that chronic alcohol consumption might reduce absorption or increase urinary elimination of folic acid. A deficiency in folate levels has been linked to damage to DNA, and to increase the risk for having a child with a class of birth defects. Women need more folic acid during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive, are advised to limit themselves to one or two units (8g) once or twice a week.

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Alcohol abuse and brain function
We do know that heavy drinking may have extensive and far-reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple "slips" in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care. Even moderate drinking leads to short term impairment, as shown by the impact of drinking on driving.
Alcohol surely affects the brain, as we all know, causing slurred speech, clumsiness, slow reflexes, and a loss of inhibition. It damages the way brain cells communicate and the damage is largely reversible. The brain repairs itself but the recovery process does change nerve-cell structure. So most function returns to normal but some does not.

Practical advices and experiences
Cause and effects:
Drinking on an empty stomach sends alcohol straight to the head. Drinks such as brandy and red wine have high concentrations of chemicals called congeners, which give the drink its flavor but produce bad hangovers. Alcohol increases urine production and causes dehydration.

Prevention:
Line the stomach with milk. Table spoon of olive oil or activated charcoal (in case of sparkling wines) is also helpful. The Romans used cabbage leaves, ancient Egyptians drank a couple of pints of cabbage water and Russians swear by pickled cucumbers. Take 2-3 pills of Lipoic acid and 1 tablet of folic acid before a party. Try drinking one glass of water for every alcoholic drink or the same evening after party drink 2-4 glasses of water with aspirin and vitamin C (500-1000mg).

Folk cures for a hangover:
Americans mix a Prairie Oyster - raw egg, tomato juice, Worcester sauce, vinegar and cognac.
Danes take a sauna.
The French resort to cafe du sel - strong coffee with salt.
Germans favor a magnesium-rich breakfast of bananas, red meat and milk or herrings with mustard and juniper berries.
The Japanese drink green tea.
The Englishman prefers Pick-Me-Up. The 160-year-old recipe is a mixture of alcohol, gentian, ammonia, camphor and vitamins.
Russians resort to drinking of pickled cucumber brine.

More about red wine and Resveratrol