Whether we like it or not, alcohol is a part of our culture and society in Australia. It is well documented that excessive alcohol intake has a profound impact on health in both the short term such as interfering with the brains communication pathway disrupting mood, behavior and coordination and in the long term, it can cause cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke and high blood pressure.
Alcohol can also take its toll on your liver and pancreas and can increase your risk of developing certain cancers including cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, throat, liver and breast. We also know that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease. So what is one to do? Maybe alcohol is ok, drinking too frequently or too much is not ok?
Unfortunately, alcohol is high in energy, just like soft drink, lollies, and deep fried foods and so on. Despite its high energy content, controversy still exists as to whether or not alcohol is a risk factor for weight gain and obesity. On one hand you have alcohol providing 7.1g/kcal therefore consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol has to be accounted for in the energy-balance equation leading to an increase in total energy consumed and thus, creating weight gain.
On the other hand, we have all the people in Europe living on the Mediterranean diet. They have some of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world. Is it because alcohol is usually consumed with meals? It is what they drink? It does appear wine is the better choice. Is it the antioxidants from the grapes or is there another factor in there?
Studies can pretty much support every argument for and against if you look carefully and ethically, we can’t just give someone an alcohol only diet removing all the other influencing factors to really determine the effects of alcohol.
The answer may lie not just in the amount of alcohol consumed but the manner in which it is drunk and what it is drunk with.
There is now good evidence that many foods in the Mediterranean diet including vegetables, pulses, whole grains and olive oil contain protective substances that help counter alcohol’s harmful effects.
So, the question remains, do alcohol calories really count?