An alcoholic beverage contains a combination of ethanol and alcoholic compounds produced by fermenting fruits, grains, or other sources of sugar. It contains fermented sugar and starch, which is why it is high in calories. Some types of drinks have more calories than others like beer and cocktail drinks. Considering all the sugar and calories and sugar found in alcohol, it is no surprise that there is a link between alcohol and weight gain.
What Alcohol Does to Your Body
Alcohol is a widely used recreational beverage globally. Statistics suggest that about thirty-three percent of the general population worldwide were identified as current drinkers. A 2016 research observed that men, in general, consume about 2 drinks a day while women consume about 1 drink per day.
A 2015 study suggests that at least eighty-six percent of American adults at some points in their lives have tasted alcoholic drinks. Seventy percent of the participants say that they have drunk alcohol from the previous year. While sixty percent of the individuals interviewed say they’ve consumed alcohol at least once the previous month.
Intake in small dosages induces euphoria and may temporarily lessen anxiety and improve sociability. It is also thought to be a depressant. It decreases neurotransmission levels causing reduced stimulation or arousal in certain parts of the nervous system. In higher dosages, it may cause drunkenness and/or unconsciousness. In some cases, it may even lead to death if consumed in excess.
Long-term use may lead to alcohol abuse or dependence, which may eventually cause health problems that include cancer, anemia, liver cirrhosis, cardiovascular disease, depression, dementia, high blood pressure, and gout. It can also lead to weight gain and a bloated stomach if consume excessively. It contains high levels of empty calories that disables your body’s fat burning mechanism and slows your metabolism.
Alcohol and Weight Gain
Alcoholic compound weakens the body’s ability to burn stored fats in the abdomen. This is why aside from being overweight, heavy drinkers also usually have a bloated belly. The American Dietary Guidelines defined heavy drinkers as persons’ who consume at least four cups of alcohol in a day or at least eight drinks per week for women. They also noted that male heavy drinkers are more at risks of overweight than female.
It’s mentioned that alcohol is loaded with calories, but is it the same calories from another food source? The answer is no. Alcohol is energy dense but low in nutrients. This is the reason why dieticians call it empty calories. These calories redistribute fats and promote appetite. For example, a study conducted at the University of Liverpool where participants were given a three meal per day but thirty minutes before the meal they’re to drink alcohol beverage first. The researchers observed a significant increase in their appetite. Another interesting observation is that they also started to crave for more salty and fatty foods.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicines observed that the likelihood of obesity and slower metabolism in adulthood results from early alcohol consumption in the persons’ younger years. The study is based on information gathered from the US National Longitudinal Study. The researchers focused on individuals in their late teens. They observe them until in their twenties and in their mid-twenties and lastly, in their early thirties.
Researchers noted that the risks of overweight for heavy drinkers are about forty percent comparing to occasional drinkers and non-alcohol drinkers. And the risks of obesity increases by thirty-five percent when they reached their mid-twenties. When the individual is already obese before the age of twenty-five, the risks of maintaining the same weight and gaining more is thirty-five percent.
Other Potential Health Risks for Heavy Drinkers
There are many scientific studies to support that alcoholic beverages increases weight. Also, it may not only affect a persons’ weight but also his general health condition. Enlisted below are only a few of health conditions associated with heavy drinking:
Alcohol is a depressant. It may temporarily numb your feelings but after every drinking session, it increases your risks of depression. Also, when a currently depressed person turns to alcohol drinking in an attempt to self-medicate, he may only worsen his depressed state.
Alcohol is highly toxic to the liver—it scars healthy liver tissues. When the medical condition is not remedied immediately, liver scarring may spread throughout the liver and affect its proper functioning.
A study made by the American Liver Foundation says that about ten to twenty percent of chronic drinkers are likely to develop liver cirrhosis. It’s a progressive disease that starts as fatty liver disease and then to alcoholic hepatitis and finally, cirrhosis. However, there are also cases that suggest a person may develop cirrhosis even without having hepatitis.
Research conducted at the University of Toronto suggests that chronic drinking increases the risk of cancer. They observed that the body converts alcohol compounds into acetaldehyde—a carcinogen that may cause cancer cells to develop. They further state that cancer caused by chronic drinking is likely to develop in the larynx, pharynx, mouth, liver, breast, esophagus, and colon.
A study published in 2005 by Harvard found that excessive alcohol drinking causes the platelets to clump together—similar to what happens during blood clots. This condition usually leads to stroke or heart attack. It may also lead to a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. It’s a condition that weakens heart tissues and causes it to function improperly.
High blood pressures
Alcohol compounds interfere with the normal function of the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system plays an important role during high-stressed situations or changes in temperatures that constrict and dilate blood vessels. Over time, high blood pressure may lead to a more serious condition that includes heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure.