Food: Health conditions linked to alcohol use

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2024

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Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed beverages across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is a psychoactive substance that is a nervous system depressant. Alcohol contains dependence-producing properties, which means there is the risk for addiction. Although alcohol has been widely used in many cultures for centuries, overconsumption of alcohol can cause various diseases. In fact, the WHO says alcohol is a casual factor in more than 200 diseases, injuries and other health conditions.

The jury is still out regarding just how harmful alcohol can be. There are some who believe that light drinking poses little risk, and it was once believed there were some benefits to enjoying a drink once in a while, such as a lower risk for heart disease or diabetes. Today, many experts are rethinking those assertions. The Mayo Clinic says current research on alcohol suggests drinking in any amount carries a health risk. While the risk may be low for moderate intake, the risk escalates as the number of drinks go up. Here are some health conditions tied to alcohol usage.

• Liver disease: The National Institutes of Health says 90 percent of absorbed alcohol is metabolized in the liver, so it is extensively exposed not only to alcohol, but toxic alcohol metabolites. Hepatitis, which is inflammation of the liver, is one alcohol-related liver disease. ALD is a major contributor to morbidity in the United States and around the world.

• Brain changes: Excessive alcohol consumption may cause irreversible brain damage depending on how much a person drinks, says the Alcohol Rehab Guide.

• Immune system disruption: The NIH says alcohol can interfere with multiple aspects of the immune response; the result can be decreased protection against infection.

• GERD: Drinking alcohol can cause an increased risk of gastrointestinal reflux disease.

• Various cancers: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate alcohol can lead to cancers of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.

• Mental health issues: Alcohol usage can exacerbate existing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, or potentially lead to them.

• Cardiovascular disease: The Mayo Clinic warns that heavy drinking can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and stroke.

• Pregnancy complications: Women are urged to avoid alcohol while pregnant because drinking may cause the unborn baby to suffer brain damage or be born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

• Alcohol poisoning: Alcohol poisoning is an acute condition of heavy binge drinking. This illness can cause brain damage, seizures and hypothermia, all of which can lead to death.

• Alcohol use disorders: The CDC warns that drinking can eventually lead to dependence on alcohol and the development of alcohol use disorder, which is the term now used in place of alcoholism or alcohol dependence.

Many health professionals warn that drinking more than one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two for men,  is considered moderate drinking, can lead to health complications. Currently the sentiments are there is no safe amount of alcohol, and people may want to consider avoiding it entirely in the name of good health.