Habitual alcohol use has been linked to a number of health risks. Self-perpetuating use, brain damage and lowered judgment can result from even social use of alcohol. Those who choose to consume alcohol responsibly must first be responsible for the proper understanding of alcohol detriments. Drinking in moderation or quitting drinking all together can reduce or stop these detrimental effects on your health.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain
Falling prey to alcoholism is the result of a slow, insidious dependence on alcohol. A social drink with friends can often lead to an urge to go out more often. More frequent use can quickly lead to dependence, which is marked by improved functionality following alcohol consumption. Once dependence has settled, continual use leads to an increased tolerance. This step usually leads to self-realization, which is typically followed by attempts at sobriety. Withdrawal occurs following sobriety, leaving alcoholics in a vicious cycle of addiction.
Those who have moderate to severe imbalance in neurotransmitter production are genetically predisposed to alcoholism. This genetic basis of addiction results from those who suffer from GABA imbalances. GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain that controls the inhibition of brain cells. Alcohol creates a unique, positive response in GABA-deficient individuals, which increases their predisposition towards habitual use.
The above neurochemistry foreshadows alcohol’s effects on GABA production. Those who frequently consume alcohol find that failing to drink will give them shakes or even seizures. These withdrawal symptoms occur because GABA, which normally reduces excitability of brain cells, is no longer produced at rates that it should be. The brain no longer feels the need to produce GABA because alcohol has taken its place. The result is uncontrolled nervous-system excitation.
Alcohol and brain damage are also inextricably linked. Those who regularly consume alcohol show reduced brain mass when their brains are examined under an MRI. This reduction is closely related to the reduction in mental faculties associated with alcohol use. Lowered intellectual ability, judgment impairment and reduced sensory-response times are highly correlated with alcohol use.
Dementia rates associated with drinking are also high. Almost 20% of dementia cases can be linked to excessive drinking. Alcoholic women have an increased risk of developing dementia. Alcoholism creates a deficiency in B1, which is associated with dementia development. The reduced female consumption of B1 is believed to account for their increased dementia risk.
Alcohol’s Effects on Metabolism
Consumption of alcohol has a pronounced effect on liver toxicity. The liver is responsible for removing all manner of toxins. The liver is also responsible for free-fatty-acid, or FFA, oxidation, which is the “burning” of blood-suspended fats for fuel. Consumption of alcohol effectively stops the liver in its tracks. The liver ceases all FFA oxidation, suspends further toxin removal and proceeds to focus on the removal of alcohol.
With all things considered equal, this liver process would not increase fat accumulation. However, those who consume alcohol often do so while simultaneously consuming high fat, high carbohydrate food. The body is quite able to increase its fat stores during alcohol metabolism. Unfortunately, the suspension of fat oxidation combines with an increase in fat storage to create unfavorable body compositions and poor health.