While contemplating glugging down a few glasses of wine to get through the holidays, it might be a good idea to remember some of these facts about what’s not so great about wine —and other alcoholic beverages — the boozy bits.
See what alcohol does to your brain and body >
While alcohol is legal, and some have evidence shows that wine may have positive health effects, alcohol also has immediate effects on the body and brain, and long-term, irreversible health effects.
When you take alcohol into your body — no matter if it is in the form of wine, hard liquor, or beer — it all goes to the same place: Your stomach, then your small intestine.
In the intestines, the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream. From there it circulates through your entire body, where it crosses the barrier to get to your brain cells, and impacts countless other organs.
On the bright side, some drinks have ingredients that give them positive health benefits, when taken in moderation, of course. A daily glass of red wine has also been touted as having multiple health benefits.
Loss of coordination stems from alcohol's effects on the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which turns off some brain cells. Alcohol enhances these inhibitory effects, resulting in sluggish movements and reaction times that can make you lose coordination, Psychology Today explains.
A recent study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, published Sept. 15, 2011, suggests that damage to the brain's cerebellum from heavy drinking can cause balance problems for years, even after heavy alcoholics sober up.
People under the influence of alcohol have decreased brain activity in other areas of the brain too, specifically the prefrontal cortex, Psychology Today reports. This area is responsible for rational thought and decision making, so lowered activity makes you put less thought into your actions and decisions.
This relaxing effect can be helpful at times, when alcohol is taken in moderation. A study in BPS Research Digest, and a second one published in Consciousness and Cognition, suggest that a drink or two could help you perform better at work and make you more creative.
Your brain doesn't make long term memories right when sloshed, making you forget parts of your night.
Alcohol use causes the brain to become a sieve of information -- though you are still awake and moving around, large amounts of alcohol stop your brain from being able to make and keep new long-term memories.
The third brain area where alcohol interacts to dumb-down the brain is the temporal cortex, including the hippocampus, a brain region responsible for making new memories, is located.
Drinking causes blurred vision due to the impairment of brain function and eye coordination, weakened eye muscle coordination makes the iris not able to respond quickly to lights, which causes the loss of peripheral vision, and the decreased sensitivity to contrast, About.com reports.
The hormone travels to your kidneys, which filter your blood to remove water and toxins as needed. When alcohol blocks the release of this hormone, the kidneys get leaky and stop reabsorbing as much water -- resulting in tons of pee and dehydration.
This dehydration is one part of a hangover. The other part is how your body handles the alcohol. Our livers produce acetaldehyde when they break down alcohol. Acetaldehyde is more toxic than alcohol and is what causes hangovers. Sadly, nothing really cures a hangover but time and fluids, though over-the-counter painkillers and Pepto Bismol can ease the symptoms.
For more info: What Happens To Your Body During A Hangover >
Heavy drinking puts your liver in overdrive, and eventually wears it out. The condition called cirrhosis develops when irreversible scarring replaces healthy liver tissue and causes the liver to shrink.
The scar tissue blocks the normal blood flow and stops the liver from working properly. It causes jaundice, severe itching, bloating and swelling in your legs and abdomen, gallstones, and more. Severe alcoholics end up needing liver transplants to survive.
Alcohol related brain damage includes two disorders, Wernicke's encephalopathy and Korsakoff's psychosis.
Wernicke's results from a lack of vitamin B1, also known as thiamine which heavy drinkers lack because of their poor eating habits, frequent vomiting, and inflammation in the stomach lining that interferes with the body's ability to absorb nutrients. The symptoms include confusion about time and place, drowsiness, poor balance, numbness of the legs, double vision, involuntary eye movements, and memory impairment.
Korsakoff is the chronic form of Wernicke's that happens when drinking damages important areas of the brain, causing short-term memory loss, and the inability to develop new skills.
Male alcoholics appear to have a great deal of difficulty recognising emotions in verbal language, a small European study, published in November 2012 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, suggests. The researchers also found that the men have a weakened ability to show empathy -- which could play a role in why alcoholism leads to emotional and relationship problems.
Alcohol-induced heartbreak isn't just emotional, it can be physical — and can lead to heart failure.
And no, not in the relationship messing up way. Long term heavy drinking can cause alcohol-induced damage to the heart muscles, called cardiomyopathy.
The disease known as ACM causes a reduction of the mass of the heart and ultimately leads to heart failure.
Prolonged alcohol use injures the nerves of the body, and leaves an alcoholic unable to control their movements. Researchers aren't sure if the alcohol injures the nerves directly by poisoning them or if long-term malnutrition in alcoholics causes the damage.
This nerve damage can cause numbness or tingling in the extremities, and cause ulcers or sores. Loss of control of your body parts can lead to clumsiness and lots of other symptoms, depending on what nerves are impacted.
Red flushing is most pronounced in people with a change to specific liver enzymes, mostly those of Asian origin. It's caused by a mutation to one enzyme in the liver that processes alcohol to acetaldehyde. The mutation actually helps the liver process alcohol quicker, leading to more acetaldehyde in the blood.
A second mutation also present in many Asians delays the breakdown of acetaldehyde. When the two are both present, the red glow and acetaldehyde hangovers are worse. These mutations are also associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer in drinkers.
The acetaldehyde produced causes the tiny blood vessels in the face to expand, making the face look redder -- often called the 'Asian glow.'
Many people forget that drinks contain calories. Just like the cream in your coffee or the sugar in your soda add calories to your diet, those glasses of wine and pints of beer add bulge to your belly if consumed in excess.
A recent study, published by the National centre for Health Statistics on Nov. 15, found that men ages 20 to 39 consume the most calories from alcohol, about 175 calories per day, while women in this age group consume about 60 calories from alcohol daily.
For people who drink daily, that can really pack on the pounds.
A new study in rats, published Oct. 15, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that it only takes a few months of intermittent binge drinking to damage the brain of a rat. The brain damage includes signs of cognitive impairment that swiftly reduce one's capacity to control how much alcohol they take in, the researchers said.
The binge drinking specifically injured a group of brain cells that control a rat's ability to make decisions. Between drinking binges, these brain cells were unusually active. And the more active they were, the more the rats drank on their next binge.
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