May 25, 2012

Not so happy of an hour: what drinking does to your body

It is Saturday night and you skip dinner and head out for a big girls' night; you can't wait for that first glass of wine. But what is happening to your body on these wild nights out? Let's breakdown an hour of your drinking evening... although a warning, it might ruin your buzz!

By Laura Beil, taken from Women's Health Magazine

In the first minute

The drink lands in your stomach. (Had the booze been accompanied by food, it would have taken a slower journey – via your bloodstream – your liver. But you skipped the chips and guacamole.)

Your liver has to work so hard to break down the flood of alcohol that it puts a temporary hold on other key duties, such as processing kilojoules.

In the next 30 minutes

The liver first converts the liquor into a known carcinogen called acetaldehyde and then breaks it down into acetate, which is a less harmful chemical.Because your liver is overwhelmed, the alcohol backs up in your bloodstream and shoots up to your brain, where it disrupts nerve cells in the hippocampus (which controls memory), the cerebellum (which controls movement) and the prefrontal cortex (which controls mood). As a result, you may feel relaxed and suddenly charming. You may also feel warm and flushed, thanks to expanded blood vessels in your skin.

Out of nowhere, you have to pee – like right now.

A potent diuretic, alcohol speeds up the flow of fluids to the bladder.

Meanwhile, if your margarita was made with triple sec, the drink’s sugar content has caused an insulin spike, which may lead to sweating or eating salty, fatty foods you’d normally avoid.
How much is a standard drink?
  • Can/stubbie low-strength beer = 0.8 standard drink 
  • Can/stubbie mid-strength beer = one standard drink 
  • Can/stubbie full-strength beer = 1.4 standard drinks 
  • 100ml wine (13.5 per cent alcohol) = one standard drink 
  • 30ml nip spirits = one standard drink 
  • Can spirits (7 per cent alcohol) = 1.6 to 2.4 standard drinks
Source: National Health and Medical Research Council

After 60 minutes

The alcohol is transformed by your liver from acetate to carbon dioxide (which you breathe out) and water (which you pee away). Not gone are the 1680-plus kilojoules you took in. With your liver otherwise occupied, your body stored the kJs as triglycerides (a type of fat). Those are tucked mostly into cells around your abdomen, the unhealthiest place for it.

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