Of course you know that too much alcohol damages the brain cells, and the liver anyway. You may also have heard that it also promotes dementia, cancer and strokes. But few people are aware that the risk group includes not only the usual suspects who get drunk on the sofa before midnight at every party, but also those who celebrate their evening’s wine every night or celebrate every meeting with their girlfriends with a bottle of prosecco. So maybe you too. Yeah.
The effects of alcohol on the body and the amount of alcohol that can endanger health are explained by Prof. Dr. med. Florian Eyer, Head of the Department of Clinical Toxicology and Poison Control Munich at the Klinikum rechts der Isar of the Technical University of Munich. After all, every year in Germany approximately 74,000 people die as a result of alcohol. You don’t want to increase the statistics? No problem, then you need to reduce your regular alcohol consumption to a tolerable level.
6 Things to recognise that you drink too much Even with just one bottle of beer, you as a woman have usually exceeded the limits of the tolerable range. © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com
At what point is alcohol consumption harmful?
There is little objection to the odd glass of wine or beer on special occasions. Because with alcohol the motto is: the dose makes the poison. Nevertheless the WHO It sets out criteria for assessing whether someone is abusing alcohol and the point at which the consumption of alcohol becomes a health hazard. For example, the consumption of over 12 grams of pure ethanol p.d. (for men it is 24 grams), the probability of numerous diseases is significantly increased.
The following examples show that this limit is reached faster than you might think: A glass of red or white wine (200 ml) or a glass of sparkling wine (200 ml) each contains just under 18 grams of alcohol, i.e. 1.5 times the recommended maximum amount. 500 ml of beer with an alcohol content of about 5 percent already contains 20 grams of pure ethanol. A small bottle of beer (330 ml) therefore contains over 13 grams of alcohol.
If you drink a well-deserved beer every evening after work, you are already exceeding the limit of tolerable consumption every time.
In addition to the health risks, the consumption of alcohol is quickly addictive. It is therefore internationally recommended to avoid alcohol 2 to 3 days a week.
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How does alcohol affect the brain?
“People who regularly consume large amounts of alcohol cognitively degrade in old age,” Professor Eyer explains to us. “They are no longer as efficient and have difficulty concentrating.” Moreover, excessive consumption, regardless of age, is the biggest risk factor for dementia.
The good news is that if you stop drinking, your cognitive abilities can improve again. However, there is a point at which the damage to the brain and nervous system is irreversible. The earlier you give up alcohol, the better!
The more events and parties there are, the more often the appeal of drinking alcohol arises. Perhaps simply going out less often? © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com
Does alcohol lead to fatty liver and cirrhosis of the liver?
“Where my liver used to be, there is now a mini-bar” – as funny as this sentence sounds, there is something true and less funny behind it. Because the liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol. However, if you drink too much and too regularly, the liver is overburdened with this task and can no longer work properly. The consequences may then be very serious.
- Adiposis of the liver: Fatty liver is the most common liver disease in Germany. Here, the liver cells store more fat until the liver is fatty. If fatty liver is not treated, its structure changes because more connective tissue is formed. “Chronic alcohol drinkers who are well above the limits develop fatty liver in 90 percent of cases,” says our expert. Fatty liver can in turn lead to inflammation, liver cirrhosis or liver cancer
- Cirrhosis of the liver: If alcohol consumption is not stopped, inflammatory processes occur. Liver cells are replaced by connective tissue and there is a risk of liver cirrhosis. This causes the liver to scar and shrink, which not only disturbs the hormone balance and blood clotting, but also means that the toxins in the body are no longer sufficiently broken down.
- Don’t let it get to that point ! A fatty liver can regenerate if you do not drink alcohol any more. With a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, a fatty liver can become a healthy liver again. Cirrhosis of the liver, however, is irreversible. Since fatty liver does not show any symptoms and can only be diagnosed by a doctor on the basis of liver values and ultrasound, it often goes undetected. Here, prevention is the best medicine. It is better to have more non-alcoholic drinks more often before it is too late.
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Is alcohol bad for the heart?
Chronic alcohol consumption raises your blood pressure! With every glass of alcohol, the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine are released, which leads to an increase in blood pressure. The increased pressure in the blood vessels then increases the risk of numerous hypertensive diseases. The consequences range from calcification of the blood vessels (arteriosclerosis) to stroke, heart attack or renal failure.
Does alcohol increase the risk of cancer?
After a night of partying even party queens wake up with a hangover. The skull is buzzing, everything seems to turn around and the stomach rumbles. The acetaldehyde is one of the reasons for this. The alcohol is oxidized in the liver by the alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH ) to acetaldehyde before it is then metabolized to acetate. However, the acetaldehyde damages the DNA and can lead to mutations, the main cause of cancer.
Reflecting on one’s own drinking behaviour does not necessarily mean living completely abstinent. © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com
“The high-percentage alcohols in particular are responsible for the significantly increased probability of carcinomas in the throat, larynx and oesophagus,” explains Prof. Eyer. “Even lower amounts of alcohol increase the probability of cancer.
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Does alcohol make you fat?
Alcohol is not only directly unhealthy, but also via the detour of weight gain. Regular consumption often causes some surprises on the scales. You don’t even need beer to get a belly. So any kind of alcohol affects your weight:
- Calorie trap alcohol: Very few people know that alcoholic beverages are a real calorie trap. For example, a small glass of sparkling wine (100 ml) has 160 calories, a glass of wine (200 ml) about 150 calories and cream cocktails even up to 500 calories. It is easy to guess how many extra calories are consumed at a party.
- Alcohol makes you hungry: Alcohol stimulates areas of the brain that are involved in the development of the feeling of hunger. As a result, chocolate, chips and other party snacks literally attract you, you can’t keep your hands off them.
- Alcohol leads to the production of fatty acids: When alcohol is broken down, acetate is formed. The acetate in turn is responsible for the synthesis of fatty acids, among other things. The consequence: the unloved hip gold spreads.
Do not see alcohol as a normal drink, but as a stimulant for special occasions. © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com
Caution is therefore the best medicine! One or two glasses of alcohol per week are usually not a problem. However, if the regularity or quantity of alcohol increases, consumption soon becomes a health hazard. The dangerous: The transition from regular consumption to addiction is fluid. The best solution is therefore prevention. Think of alcohol as a stimulant that you should only indulge in now and then.