Starving for a Drink: How Alcoholism Causes Malnutrition

“People who are accustomed to drinking regularly develop both a central nervous system and a metabolic tolerance to alcohol. The brain is less affected and the microsomal system gets rid of alcohol more rapidly. But they are not spared alcohol’s damaging effects. In other words, those who rely on alcohol for weight control could end up thin but dead.”~Dr. Charles S. Lieber, a clinical nutritionist who specialized in the effects of alcohol on the bodyIn the 1960s, one of the strangest fad diets of the day was the “Drinking Man’s Diet.” Practitioners of this plan were instructed to substitute alcohol for other sugars and starches if they wanted to lose excess weight.The diet was based on the puzzling observation that people who abuse alcohol frequently lose weight despite consuming hundreds – or even thousands – of extra calories every day through their drinking.But the truth is, alcohol abuse leads to empty, wasted calories, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, malnutrition, and other serious health concerns, NOT healthy weight loss.

It All Adds Up: Drinking and Weight Gain

When a person has the occasional beer, glass of wine, or cocktail, those extra calories contained in those drinks do add up over time, contributing to unwanted pounds. Just one alcoholic drink a day – considered “moderate” drinkingfor women and “light” drinking for men – can add up to 55,000 calories in a year.That’s enough extra to cause a 16-pound weightgain.

It’s Not Healthy: Drinking and Weight Loss

But on the flip side, long-term heavy drinking disrupts critical metabolic processes. This “trains” the body to waste the calories from alcohol and interferes with how their body derives energy from other kinds of food.In one study, subjects eating a 2500-calorie diet were given an additional 2000 calories of alcohol every day. Surprisingly, they gained virtually weight.This is NOT a good thing, because it shows how drinking interferes with proper nutrition.

How the Body Processes Alcohol

Among light and moderate drinkers, their liver disposes of alcohol by synthesizing a compound called adenosine triphosphate, which then generates energy for normal cellular processes.But among chronic heavy drinkers with a metabolism that has already been impaired, their liver wastes the potential energy the alcohol could have provided, because the alcoholic is converted into unnecessary heat.Of even more concern, the alcohol is broken down into acetaldehyde, a toxin associated with organ damage, especially to the liver, brain, and heart. And the older the person is, the greater the harm.For example, a recent study found that among senior citizens:

  • Women who had just one drink a day suffered reduced heart function.
  • Men who took more than 14 drinks per week experienced an enlargement of the left ventricle wall of the heart – the pumping chamber.

Getting Help

Malnutrition is just one of the over 200 diseases and chronic health conditions that are directly attributable to alcohol. The best way to protect your health is to quit drinking.But if you are finding it too hard to give up alcohol on your own, maybe you need professional help.If you live in Southern California, your best and most-trusted local resource is Chapman House Treatment Centers. As one of the top alcohol rehab programs in Orange County, California, Chapman House gives you the tools and teaches skills you need to safely and successfully regain your sobriety.If you are ready to take your first steps on your own personal sober journey, contact Chapman House TODAY.

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