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Alcohol and Your Health

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The relationship between alcohol and health isn’t always clear. Some research suggests alcohol can be healthy—when consumed in moderation—while other research suggests alcohol is more unhealthy for you than it is healthy.

And what about when you’re trying to lose weight? Does alcohol limit weight loss? Here are a few basic facts you should know when it comes to alcohol and your health.

  • Alcohol contains “empty” calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine has about 150 calories. And what about your favorite tequila? Just 1.5 ounces of tequila contains about 100. The number of calories in beer varies widely, but generally speaking, the darker the beer, the more calories. Calories in alcohol don’t do much (if anything) to satiate hunger, so they are considered “empty” calories.

  • Alcohol slows metabolism. Drinking can slow the body’s ability to burn stored fat. When you drink, the alcohol is broken down to a vinegar-like substance called acetate. Your body will burn acetate before it burns calories from food and fat.

  • Excessive drinking can damage your heart. Drinking a lot over a long period of time, or too much on one occasion can cause heart problems including: cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure. Though some research also shows that moderate amounts of alcohol may help protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease.

  • Drinking can cause cancer. Excessive drinking can increase your risk of certain cancers including cancer of the: mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast.

  • Drinking weakens the immune system. Too much alcohol can make your body an easy target for illness and disease. Chronic drinkers are more prone to illnesses such as pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.

  • Drinking causes weight gain. Generally speaking, people who drink weigh more than those who don’t. Beer is the biggest culprit when it comes to a high carb/high calorie drink, but again, we’re talking about empty calories. Alcohol can also trigger junk food cravings.

The broad research on the health effects of alcohol can be a bit confusing. Is drinking a detriment to your overall health and wellness? The answer to that question can depend on a number of things including your age, gender and genetics.

If you’re trying to lose weight, here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to your alcohol consumption:

  • When you drink, even just a glass of wine, cut those added calories out from another part of your diet.

  • Which is a greater priority to you: weight loss or reduced heart disease? Remember that exercise, for example, will help you lose weight, therefore reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes due to your weight.

  • If you do want to drink and still keep your waistline, exercise self-control and keep it to a drink or two a day at most.

Betty Murray, CN, IFMCP, HHC is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.