Diet Alcohol

Heavy alcohol intake causes inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines, reducing absorption of vitamins and minerals.4-6 It also damages the pancreas, which impairs production of digestive enzymes and further lowers nutrient absorption from foods. The liver is particularly vulnerable to alcohol - more than three "drinks" a day causes inflammation and accumulation of fat in the liver. This impairs liver function, reducing the ability to detoxify chemicals and drugs. Because the liver is important for blood sugar control, alcohol-induced liver damage can produce hypoglycemia, leading to fatigue, irritability, and concentration difficulties. Alcohol increases urinary losses of many minerals, including zinc, calcium, and magne-sium.5 Because of these effects, a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat milk products should be carefully chosen.

Alcoholic beverages are high in calories (a glass of beer or wine contains 120-150 cal), and alcoholic drinks have little nutritional value otherwise. If a person drinks three to four glasses of wine or beer each day, alcohol will provide 15-20% of the energy in the diet. When trying to maintain a steady weight or lose weight, limiting alcohol intake is one of the best ways to cut calories.

Heavy alcohol intake during pregnancy, especially during the first 3 months, can cause birth defects and mental retardation in the in-fant.7 No one knows how much alcohol is safe during pregnancy, and many experts feel even one "drink" per day is harmful. The safest course for a pregnant women is probably complete abstention during early pregnancy and only very rare intake in later pregnancy.

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