To Drink or Not to Drink?

Some Things to Keep in Mind Before Your Next Sip
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

In honor of Labor Day Weekend, we wanted to share the following blog on drinking and alcohol. We wish you a healthy and happy holiday weekend!

Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc

In 2010, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans included a recommendation to drink alcohol in moderation. Moderation here is defined as: one drink or less per day for women, and 2 drinks or less per day for men. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) notes that one alcoholic beverage is equal to 14 grams of alcohol. That means, one 5-ounce glass of wine, one 1.5 ounce serving of liquor (tequila, vodka, gin, and so on), or one 12-ounce bottle of beer. Alcohol can affect every person differently based on your height, weight, health status, family history, age and how often/how much you decide to drink.

Alcohol clocks in at 7.1 calories per gram, which is more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, but less than fat. So, how does alcohol breakdown in our body and is it a health risk? Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is considered a fat, not a sugar, when it is broken down in our body. The thermic effect (energy needed to breakdown foods/drinks) of alcohol is 15-22% versus the 12% for food. That means, it takes your body more energy to breakdown alcohol than food. Does that mean that people who drink will burn more calories and have a lower body weight? No. The research examining alcohol consumption and body weight regulation is mixed. Some studies concluded that alcohol consumption in women was related to a lower body weight, but the study could not control for exactly how many ounces these women drank. Another study found no correlation between alcohol and weight in women, but concluded that men who drank had a lower body fat percentage but not a lower waist-to-hip ratio (the ultimate indicator for heart health and diabetes risk). Most studies did not address long-term consumption either, so there is no evidence to see how one’s drinking habits affect them in the long run.

Extensive research from the American Institute for Cancer Research (aicr.org) has uncovered the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk in women of all ages. The majority of the research found a 10% increased risk for breast cancer with every 10 grams of alcohol/day – that’s less than one drink. Alcohol is also an Oestrogen/Estrogen disruptor, as it influences the hormone levels and its receptors.

It’s also important to know that your body considers alcohol a toxin. When you consume it, all other metabolic processes slow down to get the alcohol out of your system more efficiently. And because alcohol is considered a fat (1 of the 3 macronutrients), other fat breakdown is significantly curbed at that time.  Now, we shouldn’t start drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, rather we should be mindful of the foods we consume while we enjoy our drink. Alcohol can affect our mood and our brain function, which can ultimately affect our food choices. That’s why being mindful when we enjoy our drinks and food is important. The second we feel out of touch with ourselves from a cocktail, it may be time to stop sipping and stay present.

Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale via Compfight cc

 

For a useful tool on calculating the amount of alcohol in your drink, check out:

http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/ToolsResources/CocktailCalculator.asp

 

Most importantly, NEVER drink and drive!

Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services does not recommend drinking alcohol.

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