The ancient Egyptians called alcohol "hek," and probably
no other drug has had such a
profound effect on history.
Almost anything organic can
be turned into alcohol
through fermentation. Once alcohol gets
by the stomach, it is rapidly absorbed into
the blood. Food, especially diary foods
slow absorption. So the old adage "never
drink on an empty stomach" is true. Carbonated beverages and even bubbly
wines, on the other hand, speed absorption, so don't think mixers will make you
less intoxicated. Alcohol spreads all over
the body and some even comes out of the
lungs, which is why the breathalyzer test
is a reasonably accurate measure of what
is on board. There is an old myth that
large people, who have more fat, can
"hold" more liquor. But being fat has
nothing to do with it. It is true that the
more often you drink, the more tolerant
your body becomes and the more alcohol
you need in order to get a "buzz." It is
also true that alcohol is packed with calories and that it may increase weight.
There is little question that excessive
use of alcohol is detrimental: Brain cells
can deteriorate, leaving people forgetful.
This can be so frustrating for some that
they unconsciously make up stories to fill
in the gaps. We call this "confabulation."
The liver gets filled with fat and scars and
can't function as a waste disposal or
blood producer, and the pancreas can get
inflamed or shut down. In people of very
large size, they may already be somewhat
compromised. After repeated exposure to
too much alcohol, the nerves of the arms
and legs can become "pickled," causing
the limbs to become tingly or numb, making them susceptible to damage.
On the other hand, scientists believe
that one or two glasses of wine, or possibly other spirits, a day may be beneficial.
Small amounts of alcohol stimulate production of the good cholesterol (HDL)
that gobbles up some of the fatty "gunk"
that lines arteries and is responsible for
heart attacks. Some doctors believe that
tannins or reveratol, chemicals in red
wine, actually prevent clotting in already
junked up vessels and this is how they
prevent heart attacks. Some researchers
think that a substance called quercetin
may help to stop the growth of certain
cancer cells. To give a balanced view, it
is important to remember that there may
be other factors involved. For example,
people from France who drink wine in
moderation may have less heart disease
because of other factors, such as the fact
that they eat more fruits and vegetables
and eat their meals in a more relaxed
fashion. Thank goodness, nature tries to
help us moderate. As we get older, we
tend to drink less and because our body
water content is lower, we don't need as
much alcohol to get that "warm feeling."
A final bit of advice from Dr. Moe to all
who enjoy alcohol: A glass or two is fine
but... never alone, never on an empty
stomach, and never overdo it.