Alcohol is a class of chemical compounds containing hydroxyl, also called oxygen-hydrogen, groups.
What food source is the nutrient found in?
Alcohol is made by mixing yeasts with certain sugars. The source of the sugars gives alcohols their unique tastes and odors. For example, vodka is made from potatoes, and wine comes from grapes.
Alcohol is a calorie-dense food. There are 7 calories in every gram of alcohol. In fact, it contains almost twice as many calories as carbohydrates
. Here is an idea how many calories are in some different types of alcohol:
- 1 drink of beer (made from hops) = 12 ounces = 132 to 168 calories
- 1 drink of 80-proof Scotch whiskey (made from barley) = 1.5 ounces = 98 calories
- 1 drink of 100-proof whiskey = 1.5 ounces = 125 calories
- 1 drink of wine (made from grapes) = 5 ounces = 85 to 145 calories, depending on proof and sweetness of the grapes
- 1 drink of liqueur, also known as cordial = 1 ounce = 82 to 116 calories (depending on proof and any added sweeteners)
How does the nutrient affect the body?
Unlike fat, protein, and carbohydrate, alcohol is not something the body needs to be healthy. In fact, in large doses, alcohol causes malnutrition. This is because it prevents nutrients from being absorbed. People who binge drink can develop an early stage of liver disease called fatty liver. If a binge drinker continues to abuse alcohol, alcoholic liver disease
may develop. Cirrhosis
is the most common type of liver disease in these cases. It is a chronic disease that causes liver cells to be destroyed. It can also result in loss of liver function.
Alcohol affects the brain as well as the body. It acts as an anesthetic. This means it numbs the brain centers. First the emotion- and decision-governing centers are changed, then areas that govern muscle control. In the end, the centers that control breathing and heartbeat are affected.
Each person's body tolerates alcohol at a different level; however, any amount of alcohol consumption has an affect on body functions. What is appropriate intake for one person may be too much for someone else. Men and women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently.
So it is hard to give advice on how much alcohol is safe to drink. A person who chooses to consume alcohol needs to recognize how much he or she can safely tolerate.
The US Department of Health and Human Services defines moderate drinking as:
In small doses, alcohol may have some benefits. Small amounts of wine may help protect against heart disease, especially coronary artery disease. Experts aren't sure why, although there are many theories.
Experts believe that phytochemicals, which are plant chemicals in wine, may protect the heart and its blood vessels. Some studies have tested how well alcohol raises HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the so-called "healthy" or "good" cholesterol. Other studies have looked at the blood-thinning properties of alcohol.
Despite these benefits, the American Heart Association recommends that people not start consuming alcohol to prevent heart disease.
Heavy drinking is linked with a number of cancers. In women, even moderate drinking is linked with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Women who are pregnant should always avoid alcohol. Drinking during pregnancy increases the chance that the baby will have a low birth weight and fetal alcohol syndrome, which is also known as FAS. FAS results in poor growth, delays in development, learning difficulties and altered facial structure.
People have enjoyed wine, beer, and other fermented drinks for more than 5,000 years. Many people consume alcohol because it can improve mood, sensation, and behavior.
Most people use alcohol in moderation. However, about 1 in 9 who drinks will abuse alcohol.