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Do You Know the Damage Alcohol Does To Your Body?

80% of Indians have a lower safe-drinking limit than the rest of the world.

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Health News
3 min read
Even “social drinkers” are at risk of developing long-term health conditions because of the amount they regularly drink (Photo: iStock)
Do You Know the Damage Alcohol Does To Your Body?

You love your booze. It relaxes you. Your jokes become hysterical. Your moves, flawless; and your conversation is confident. They don’t call it liquid courage for nothing! Sorry to burst your champagne bubble, it’s not just heavy drinking, even social drinking can wreck havoc on your body.

A nightcap for women and upto two drinks per day for men, which is considered as “low risk drinking” can have a damaging impact on your waistline, sleep, heart and liver functioning in the long run.

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Why Indians Are Less Tolerant to Alcohol Than Most Ethnicities

Being able to handle a drink is all in the genes, say scientists (Photo: iStock)
Being able to handle a drink is all in the genes, say scientists (Photo: iStock)

You know very well that wine is good for your heart and beer gives you a belly. But there are multiple studies which say that there is no such thing as a safe alcohol limit. The bigger point you’re missing is that all these researches are done by the West, for the West, keeping their ethnicity in mind.

As an Indian, you must know that alcohol tolerance, or the number of drinks which make you tipsy, is not just about how much alcohol you consume.

As a rule of thumb, a person will eliminate one standard drink, or 10 ml of alcohol per hour. This rate depends upon a lot of factors like, gender, age, height, weight, general health, the amount of food you’ve had before drinking and the concentration of alcohol in the drink.

Since Europeans and Americans are taller and genetically bigger than Indians, they can metabolise their drinks faster, so the safe drinking limit for us has to be lesser than the standard 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men.

Also, ethnicity plays a huge role in alcohol tolerance. Most of Europe drinks much more than India but it hurts their health far less. That’s because 80% of East Asians and people in the Indian sub-continent have a genetic mutation in an enzyme (acetaldehyde dehydrogenase), which makes them sensitive to alcohol.

This gene makes us light drinkers than the rest of the Western world, ensuring we take longer to metabolise alcohol. It is also responsible for the classic, “Asian flush”, the hot-rosy cheeks, which most Indians get after a couple of drinks.

Social Drinking: The Hidden Risks

A global study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that alcohol consumption is up by 55% in the last two decades in India. What’s worse, in the list of 40 nations, India ranked at the 3rd slot, for this huge spike in alcohol intake between 1992 and 2012.

Most drinkers are unaware that regular moderate drinking can also lead to a wide range of long-term health problems, including cancers, strokes and heart attacks (Photo: iStock)
Most drinkers are unaware that regular moderate drinking can also lead to a wide range of long-term health problems, including cancers, strokes and heart attacks (Photo: iStock)

The trend is especially worrying because a research by Tata Memorial Hospital in 2014, found that binge drinking on weekends for just two years (five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within two hours), can lead to scarring of the liver, an irreversible damage. 2-3 drinks a day increases the chances of breast cancer in women by 60%, it heightens the risk of prostrate and liver cancer in men by 40%.

A 2010 Lancet study concluded that alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack when the overall dangers to the individual and society are considered. It also kills young. Most people with a scarred liver die by their early 40s, much before the effects of regular tobacco consumption start to show.

The study also found that just 2 drinks a day can slow down the pace of neurotransmitters in the brain and affect your decision making, and mood responses in five years.

So if you want to drink responsibly but can’t keep track of the number of units you’re guzzling (booze bottles don’t come with a nutrition chart) use one of the many Android or iOS apps to monitor the amount you drink.

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