Alcohol has been a part of human life for centuries. Historically, all civilizations brewed some form of alcoholic drink. Using their farm produce, nuts, and fruits, each region and ethnic group had a recipe for a drink. In India, alcohol finds mentioned in the Rig Veda and Ayurveda also mentions alcohol. Today also, various regions have alcoholic drinks like Apong of Assam, Handia of Jharkand, Lugdi of HP, Thaati Kallu from Kerala, and Mahua - MP. Feni of Goa, Toddy - AP and Kesar Kasturi in Rajasthan. Other than these drinks, individual households also have a recipe for wine or drink. In Rajasthan, there is a special wine brewed for lactating mothers!
There is no problem with alcohol consumption per se. In moderation, it is also believed to support health both in modern-day research and traditional concepts. The effects of alcohol is because of the active molecule ethanol. To understand why there is a caveat to how much to drink, let's understand how excess alcohol affects our bodies.
How Does Alcohol Affect Our Body?
- Stomach: Excessive intake causes gastritis by irritating the lining of the stomach.
- Liver: Causes inflammation, fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Pancreas: This may cause inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels because of the production of toxic substances in response to alcohol.
- Heart: Cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, Stroke, and high BP are some of the issues associated with excessive alcohol consumption.
- Brain: This may interfere with brain communication pathways, affecting its working and leading to confusion, mood swings, behaviour, ability to think clearly, and coordinated movements.
- Cancers: of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver, colon, and rectum. The International Agency for Research on Cancer stated that ethanol breaks down to acetaldehyde and both are carcinogenic.
While research has linked moderate intake of alcohol to protection against cardiovascular diseases, and maybe diabetes, heavy drinking is a leading cause of death and social problems.
Do we stop alcohol consumption?
Moderation is the key. The latest consensus among health care experts is that 1-2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women is safe.
Next question - what is 1 drink?
One drink is a serving that provides about 12-15% alcohol. The amount of the drink does not translate directly into the quantity of alcohol it contains:
1. Beer has 5% alcohol so a bottle is the standard 1 drink
2. Distilled spirits contain 40% alcohol so 1 drink is 30-40ml
|SERVING SIZE (floz/ml)
|WHISKY 100 proof
|VODKA 80 proof
|RUM 80 proof
|GIN 90 proof
- Spacing your drinks: Research has shown that taking that 1 drink for 4 days a week is safe but consuming 7 drinks in one sitting and avoiding it on the other days is detrimental. Basically excessive alcohol intake in one sitting is not advised.
- Eat well: If you are heading to the bar, ensure that you eat a good amount of carbs and proteins before and along with your drink. Eat well the day after too. Alcohol lowers blood sugars and can cause discomfort so snack healthy, eat a proper meal to stay healthy. Fruits are great snacks with alcohol.
- Hydrate: Make sure that you drink a big glass of water before picking up your drink and continue with water in between your drinks. This will keep you hydrated.
- Rest is important. Drinking after a workout may not be the best way. Sleep well and if you are heading for a party, make sure you get a good rest before.
Alcohol has been attributed to a lot of health benefits but only when taken in moderation. Excessive drinking has ruined many lives, and households and is detrimental to health. The idea is to enjoy a drink, not get drunk. If you are thinking of starting for the health benefits, stop, and choose exercise instead, it is more beneficial.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.