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Sunday, December 29, 2013

SHOULD YOU DRINK ALCOHOL?

Too much of anything can be fatal.  This certainly is true with ethanol (that's what a molecule looks like), the alcohol in your drink.  However, will a little bit of alcohol improve your health?

There seems to be medical evidence that a moderate amount of alcohol:
  • keeps your mind sharper
  • lowers the risk of developing diabetes
  • increases your life expectancy
  • reduces your risk of developing heart disease and gallstones and
  • can raise the level of good cholesterol in your blood by as much as 20%.
According to this article, you should drink alcohol during a meal, for alcohol without food can raise your blood pressure.  My personal experience is that my blood pressure drops with alcohol.  I've taken sips of scotch (2 ounces, and also equivalent wine and beer) over a two hour time frame, and my blood pressure consistently drops with time.  

That said, I agree that it's probably more beneficial to combine alcohol with food.  Not mentioned above is that alcohol tends to slow the stomach emptying time, thus decreasing the amount of food consumed, thus potentially lowering your weight.  However, there are those added calories in ethanol (as opposed to only water), so I wonder about the trade-off.  Clearly, a pina colada or Blue Hawaii will add many calories to your diet.

Not clear where this evidence comes from, but the profession also says don't drink if you're:
  • pregnant or breastfeeding
  • at risk for certain cancers
  • come from a family with alcohol abuse
  • a child or adolescent
  • taking certain medication that can interact with alcohol
  • faced with certain liver and ulcer problems
  • needing to maintain high coordination to perform a task
  • have inflammation of the pancreas.
How much do you need to drink to reach a 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC), the legal limit?  a 100 pound person quickly drinking two 12 ounce bottles will reach 0.07 BAC.  A 200 pound individual can drink four bottles to get to 0.07.  Similar results will be reached by that 100 pound human with 10 ounces of wine and 3 ounces of spirits (like vodka).  However, other sources provide different data, and, of course, there are the factors of time, food, medication and fatigue that complicate the reality.

Clearly, however, don't drink and drive.  While 0.08 BAC  is the legal limit, any amount of alcohol can affect your driving ability.  The facts:
  • the average BAC among fatally injured drinking drivers is 0.16
  • the relative risk of death for drivers in single-vehicle crashes with a high BAC is 385 times (yes, three hundred eighty-five times) that of a zero-BAC driver, and make that 707 times for male drivers
This is interesting:
Okay, so what is moderate drinking?  According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, if you consume alcohol, women should have one drink and men two:

  • Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)
  • Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)
  • Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters)
Thus a male can have 10 ounces of wine, which is almost 40% an American bottle (26 ounces).  If you're concerned about gender equity, there are reasons why we, men, can have twice the amount:
  • average woman weight less (of course, then, if you are a really large and heavy female, you can consider having more)
  • not an insult, but the reality is that women have a higher ratio of fat to water, so are less able to dilute alcohol within the body
  • females have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase to metabolize alcohol in the liver
While one drink generally induces relaxed affability, 10 drinks can kill you, and there are some negatives to imbibing ethanol:
  • drinking less will help you look better
  • alcohol interferes with the normal sleep process
  • remember that two large glasses of wine have the same number of calories as a hamburger
  • you will feel better if you stop drinking
  • can affect your fertility and sexual performance
  • can increase the risk of getting breast cancer, and problems with your liver, bowel, mouth and entire alimentary canal
Oh, doctor's say that if you don't drink, that's good.  If you do imbibe, do so in moderation.  Certainly, don't drink and drive.

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Tropical Cyclone Bejisa at 45 MPH has popped up northeast of Madagascar, and is projected to strengthen to hurricane strength and pass between Reunion and Mauritius later this week:


However, the path is uncertain, and so is the future nature of this storm.

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