10 things to know about alcohol

10 things to know about alcohol

Publication date: 21-08-2023

Updated on: 21-08-2023

Topic: Nutrition

Estimated reading time: 2 min

So much is said about the consequences of alcohol on the body that, over time, many false myths have arisen. 

Dr. Federica Invernizzi, head of the specialist outpatient clinic of Hepatology at Ospedale San Raffaele, attached to the General Medicine Unit with an endocrine-metabolic focus directed by Prof. Emanuele Bosi, helps us debunk the main ones.

Let's debunk the myths!

1. Alcohol does not stimulate or give confidence 

Ethanol in low doses has a nerve and psychotropic effect, causing euphoria and disinhibition. At high doses, however, it exerts a depressive action on the central nervous system.

2. A glass of wine a day is not good for the heart

Recent clinical studies dispel the myth of wine's cardioprotective effect. The presence in a glass of wine of substances with positive effects, for example, flavonoids, exists, but the concentration present in this amount is far below the threshold with beneficial activity.

In fact, the opposite is true: chronic alcohol consumption can lead to cardiological and/or vascular problems.

3. Alcohol is carcinogenic

Alcohol has been a known carcinogen since 1988, and the carcinogenic effect is related not only to quantity, but also to frequency; in fact, 10 grams per day of pure alcohol (less than 1 alcoholic unit) increases the risk of certain types of cancer by 9% up to 25%. In particular, today alcohol is considered a risk factor for the development of neoplasms of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx, esophagus, stomach, colorectum, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. 

For cancer prevention, not drinking is the best choice because there are no safe amounts of alcohol consumption and zero risk for cancer is related to abstaining from alcoholic beverages; this is the message of the European Code Against Cancer.
The European Commission recently proposed, as part of the European program to combat cancer that began in 2021, to make it mandatory to label the ingredients and nutritional values of beverages and then to label the possible risks associated with alcohol intake. 

4. Drinking bitter at the end of a meal does not help digestion 

Alcohol has an effect of reducing the rate of gastric emptying; it also has a direct injurious effect on the gastric and esophageal mucosa. Thus, the digestive action of herbs and roots is nullified by the high alcohol content. 

5. Alcohol does not heat up 

Alcohol consumption gives a fictitious feeling of warmth, unrelated to a real increase in temperature. In contrast, alcohol has a vasodilating action and thus causes heat loss.

6. Alcohol during pregnancy 

Pregnant women should not consume alcoholic beverages because of the risk of fetal harm and the development of fetal alcohol syndrome. 

7. Alcohol does not improve sexual performance 

Alcohol consumption can lead to reduced sexual response in both sexes. In addition, alcohol affects the central nervous system by causing a reduction in the hormone LH, which stimulates male hormones in men and female hormones in women.

Finally, after a single dose of alcohol, there is already the possibility of a reduction in the testosterone hormone and also in the ability to erect.

8. Working out and playing sports do not help to dispose of alcohol, through sweating 

Working out after drinking alcohol is not a good idea, in part because alcohol is a powerful factor in dehydrating the body; therefore, sweating and exercising in a poorly hydrated condition is unhealthy. 

9. Doesn't consuming alcohol only on weekends put your health at risk? 

Absolutely not; alcohol consumption can have health repercussions even if it occurs “only” on weekends. The consequences can be:

  • physical in nature: alcohol intoxication to the point of stupor and coma, neurotoxicity, impotence and infertility, sleep disorders, increased risk of developing cancer or chronic diseases;
  • social in nature, changes in interpersonal relationships and lifestyle modifications: risky sexual relationships, aggressive behavior, abuse, lawlessness, traffic accidents.

10. Alcohol and addiction 

Constant alcohol intake is addictive. At the behavioral level, this is manifested by a continuous search for the substance (so-called craving) and withdrawal syndrome if intake is stopped.

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