For this blog piece the focus on the WSET course is on Alcohol and how the body reacts to this stimulant.
Alcohol is an integral ingredient in wine, contributing to its structure and the flavour. However, alcohol is an addictive substance which, if consumed to excess, can have damaging consequence for one’s health, happiness and financial security.
Due to the harmful effect alcohol can have, most countries have legislation to guide and control the misuse of alcohol. These are generally defined as:
- Minimum legal drinking age or legal drinking age (LDA), for purchasing alcohol. However this doesn’t cover in the home with parental permission.
- Maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for any body operating a machine of some kind. The BAC is a measurement of the amount of alcohol in the blood by recording the milligrams of ethanol per milliliter of blood. The limit varies between countries.
- Guidelines for sensible drinking. Varies between countries and is generally shown in a measurement of units. Official ‘drinks’ or ‘units’ generally contain 8g and 14g of pure ethanol. There is no international consensus on a single drink size.
- Restrictions covering the marketing, packaging and sale of alcohol. As alcohol is addictive and harmful if drunk to excess, many laws, codes and guidelines exist to regulate and ensure that alcohol is produced, marketed and sold in a social manner.
Alcohol and Health
Statistically there are no health benefits for younger age groups. For men over 40 and post-menopausal women for whom the risk of heart disease and strokes are higher, with moderate drinking as part of a healthy lifestyle, the risk is reduced. It is not recommended that anyone should start drinking for health reasons.
Alcohol and its Metabolism
Alcohol is absorbed by the body through the stomach and small intestines. Food helps to slow down the rate of absorption, which is why alcohol affects you more on an empty stomach. The body cannot store alcohol so it breaks it down, mostly via the liver. The body’s ability to process and break down alcohol depends age, sex and weight. In general it’s about one standard drink an hour.
Drinking too Much, Too Fast
Alcohol is a mood-altering substance, the more you drink the greater the effect. Getting drunk impairs your judgement and can increase risky behaviour.
Getting drunk or drinking heavily on a regular basis increases the risk of many health issues.
Alcohol and Health Myths
The liver can only break down 10 g (a small drink) of alcohol an hour. NO matter how ‘used’ you’re to drinking this stays the same. So despite feeling fine you could still be over the limit to drive for example. Liver disease is essentially a ‘silent’ disease, meaning their no symptoms until the damage is advanced.
Drinking heavily and beyond the recommended guidelines is dangerous and harmful to the body.
It is a good idea to eat before and while you’re drinking as foods helps absorb alcohol and so it enters the bloodstream more slowly. Eventually the same amount of alcohol is in your system and it doesn’t lessen the quantity to be broken down by the liver and the alcohol will stay in your system for longer.
Drinking water whilst consuming alcohol will help to keep you hydrated, it is also recommended to drink a glass of water before going to bed. This has no effect on the liver so the damaging effects of alcohol remain.