Alcohol affects us all differently
Alcohol affects every organ in the body. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver by enzymes. However, the liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed.
The blood alcohol concentration is determined by several factors, namely, the amount of alcohol consumed, the presence or absence of food in the stomach, in addition to other factors that affect gastric emptying and the
rate of alcohol oxidation.
Studies show that age and gender affect the rate at which a person metabolizes and eliminates alcohol.
- Sex- In general, males metabolize alcohol more efficiently than females because they have ADH in the stomach and very active ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase), the enzyme responsible for metabolizing alcohol in the liver.
- Age- Typically, the older we get, the less we can metabolize alcohol meaning we can get intoxicated faster than when we were younger. This is because as we age, our ability to metabolize alcohol is reduced as those enzymes lose functionality.
Conflicting consequences of Overconsumption of Alcohol
There is a strong scientific evidence that drinking alcohol increases the risk for cancer, including cancers of the mouth and throat, liver, breast (in women) and colon and rectum, and for some types of cancer, the risk increases even at low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink in a day). The evidence indicates that the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher his or her risk of developing an alcohol-associated cancer. The risk varies by many factors, such as the quantity of alcohol consumed and type of cancer. The Dietary Guidelines for Americansexternal icon recommends that adults who choose to drink do so in moderation – 1 drink or less on a day for women or 2 drinks or less on a day for men. However, emerging evidence suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death from various causes, such as from several types of cancer and some forms of cardiovascular disease.
Definition of a Standard Drink
A standard drink is equal to 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in
- 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
- 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
- 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).
Image taken from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).