There's always this contradicting opinion when you ask people how they think alcohol affects human health. Some individuals in their opinion believe taking alcohol is a moderate amount could be linked to certain health benefits. However, it is also important to register the opinion of people who would advise strongly against it because they think its unethical, nonreligious or it posses threat to the health of the consumer.
The truth is, alcohol is addictive and highly toxic. And besides, the effects of alcohol consumption alcohol are actually quite complex. They vary significantly between individuals, and depend on the amount consumed or the type of alcoholic beverage.
So how does alcohol affect the health of its consumers you may ask, let's have a look:
Alcohol, the most popular recreational "drug" in the world is made primarily from ethanol produced by yeasts when they digest sugar in certain carb rich foods, such as grapes (wine) or grains (beer).
Alcohol can reduce self-consciousness and shyness, making it easier for people to act without inhibition. At the same time, it can impair judgment and make people do things that they end up regretting.
Some people drink small amounts at a time, while others tend to binge drink i.e. they drink large amounts at a time, in order to get drunk.
On consumption, Alcohol is metabolized by the liver; a remarkable organ whose main functions is to neutralize all sorts of toxic substances we consume. For this reason, the liver is particularly vulnerable to damage by alcohol intake. Frequent consumption can lead to increased fat inside liver cells.
In heavy drinkers, binge drinking may cause the liver to become inflamed. In worst case scenarios, liver cells die and get replaced with scar tissue, leading to a serious condition called cirrhosis; irreversible and associated with many serious health problems. In advanced cirrhosis, getting a new liver (a liver transplant) may be the only option.
Excessive alcohol consumption can have numerous adverse effects on the brain. Binge drinking may lead to a blackout, a phenomenon characterized by memory loss (amnesia) during a heavy drinking episode. These effects are only temporary, but chronic alcohol abuse may cause permanent changes in the brain, often leading to impaired brain function.
In worst case scenarios, the severity of brain damage may impair people's ability to lead an independent life. Conversely, drinking moderately has been linked with reduced risk of dementia, especially in elderly people.
While alcohol intake and depression seem to increase the risk of each other simultaneously, alcohol abuse may be the stronger causal factor. Many people suffering from anxiety and depression drink intentionally to reduce stress and improve mood.
This may work for a few hours, but will worsen overall mental health and lead to a vicious cycle. Heavy drinking has actually been shown to be a major cause of depression in some individuals, and treating the alcohol abuse leads to big improvements.
Light to moderate drinking is linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (a leading cause of death in modern society), while heavy drinking appears to increase the risk.
Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat, colon, breast, and liver. The cells lining the mouth and throat are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol. Not surprising, since they are directly exposed to the stuff.
Even light alcohol consumption, 1 drink per day, is linked to a 20% increased risk of mouth and throat cancer. The risk increases with the daily amount consumed. More than 4 drinks daily appear to cause a five-fold increase in the risk of mouth and throat cancer, and also increase the risk of breast, colon and liver cancer.
Alcohol abuse during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in the US. Binge drinking early in pregnancy is particularly risky for the developing baby. In fact, it may have adverse effects on development, growth, intelligence, and behavior, which may affect the child for the rest of its life.
There appears to be a grain of truth in Abraham Lincoln's words when he said, "It has long been recognized that the problems with alcohol relate not to the use of a bad thing, but to the abuse of a good thing." Studies suggest that light and moderate consumption of alcohol may to cut the risk of premature death, especially in Western societies. At the same time, alcohol abuse is the third main cause of preventable death in the US, being an important cause of chronic diseases, accidents, traffic crashes, and social problems.
Some people become addicted to the effects of alcohol, a condition called alcohol dependence (alcoholism). Numerous factors can predispose people to problem drinking, such as family
history, social environment, mental health, and genes. As a rule of thumb, if alcohol is causing problems in your life, then you may have a problem with alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
Chronic alcohol abuse can have catastrophic health effects, affecting the entire body and causing a range of health problems. However, let's just say that if you are a heavy drinker, diet and exercise should be the least of your worries. Getting your consumption under control, or abstaining completely in the case of alcoholism, should be priority number one.
At the end of the day, the health effects of alcohol range from "probably good" to "absolutely disastrous." Drinking small amounts, especially of red wine, is linked to various health benefits. On the other hand, alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are linked to severe negative effects on both physical and mental health. If you enjoy alcohol and you can keep it moderate, then by all means continue to do what you are doing.
However, if you tend to drink excessively, or alcohol causes problems in your life, then consider avoiding it as much as possible. Alcohol is one of those things that depend entirely on the individual. Its good for some, disastrous for others.
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