By Sunday, this week will have involved a toast to a book project, a publishing pub quiz and a wedding, all of which include drinks. Indeed, alcohol intake is somewhat of an occupational hazard, with book launches, networking events and fairs, all helped along with a glass (or two) of wine a teetotal publisher seems something of an oxymoron.
I go through dry spells, mainly to prove to myself that I can happily manage without a drink, but there is something so deliciously decadent about a glass of red curled up next to a fire on a chilly evening, or a crisp Italian white on a sunny afternoon, that I don’t seem to have either the power or inclination to give up altogether.
While I always feel a little disappointed and annoyed at myself when I have that one glass too many, and envy my teetotal friends who don’t have the same enjoyment of wine, this just doesn’t seem to be enough to give it up completely.
A recent survey of a number of my colleagues and friends revealed a similar story, with many of them admitting that they should probably drink a little less and that they too separate drinking alcohol from other health and fitness concerns.
The calories in alcohol are only matched by those in pure fat (so when you think you’ve ‘lost your appetite’ after a few drinks, you may actually find you’ve just taken in your calorie intake in a less nutritional form). These empty calories not only add to your waistline without offering any nutritional value, but the alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body uses for energy. This is because while we can store protein, carbohydrates, and fat, we can’t store alcohol so our body works to get rid of it and in doing so all of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.
On top of this there is that inevitable night of poor sleep (which in itself boosts your desire to eat) followed by a day of chain drinking coffee and indulging in stodgy carbohydrates, sugary fruit juices, or fatty nuts. Not to mention the subpar performance in the pool/gym/running track, if you even make it to your workout.
The longer term outcomes of regular alcohol intake are pretty bleak and include increased risk of mouth, throat, liver, oesophagus and breast cancer, steatosis (fatty liver), cirrhosis and fibrosis of the liver, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscles), arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), stroke and high blood pressure.
Drinking too much can also weaken your immune system and chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.
The Guardian reported this week that the number of people diagnosed with liver cancer has risen sharply in recent years. An Office for National Statistics study shows the incidence of liver cancer in England increased by 70% for males and 60% for females between 2003 and 2012.
This study reports that since 2003 there have been large increases in the number of registrations of liver, oral, uterine and kidney cancer, all of which are strongly linked to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.
The NHS says that while the exact cause of liver cancer is not known, it is thought to be related to damage to the liver, such as cirrhosis, which can be caused by excessive drinking.
Drink Aware has a great resource for calculating your daily and weekly unit and calorie-from-alcohol intake which is quite shocking and I’d recommend having a look (if only out of morbid curiosity!)
Still fancy that glass of wine…
Read more on the NHS, Drink Aware and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism websites.