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Lifted from -Closure- on the CripplingAlcoholism sub of Reddit.

It's mostly just one man's dream to put a lod of alcohol related science in one place, and so there are some factual errors here and there, but mostly it seems sound.


Quote from: -Closure-
Okay, I've been meaning to make this series of posts for bloody ages. I just want to give a quick overview of the basics regarding Alcoholism, Ethanol, and one's general Nutrition.

I'm making three types of post:

Please note that I have absolutely zero background in science, or at least zero post high school. If you have any information to add, or correct, please do so in the comments below. Also, I strongly urge that no one ever takes anything I say as medical advice nor information, but rather just as my own personal thoughts. There is obviously a clear difference there, and it is very important to me that this difference is understood.


Ethanol - the 'drinking alcohol' - is the psychoactive drug that we all love/need to imbibe, whether recreationally or as self-medication or for whatever purpose.

Besides being psychoactive, it is also a potent fuel. This is pretty unique as far as drugs go.


A Calorie is a measure of energy. What we call a 'Calorie' is actually a 'large calorie' - written as Cal or more commonly as kcal - which is a measure of a thousand 'small calories' (written as cal).

One large calorie - or, in normal speak, one Calorie (1 kcal) - is the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kilo of water by 1 degree celcius.

On a gram by gram basis, you get the following energy from the following fuel sources:

  • 1 gram of Fat=9 Calories
  • 1 gram of Protein=4 Calories
  • 1 gram of Carbohydrate=4 Calories
  • 1 gram of Ethanol=7 Calories

and, as 7.9 grams of Ethanol equals 10ml of Ethanol:

  • 1ml of Ethanol=5.5 Calories

So, in a fifth (750ml/25 fl. oz.) of straight 80 proof liquor (40% Ethanol/~60% Water), you'll get:

  • 750ml x 0.4=300ml Ethanol
  • 300ml x 5.5 Calories
  • 1650 Calories
Alcohol Metabolism

It's important to note though that whilst human energy sources are measured in Calories, they are certainly not equal in the sense of how the human body uses them, or even can use them.

Typically (and in layman's), the body uses Glucose (or Ketones) for energy. Consumed Fat/Protein/Carbohydrate (F/P/C) will be broken down, and a large proportion of these energy sources will be converted into Glucose, as well as Glycerol and Free Fatty Acids, etc, with their levels increasing in proportion to the amount of Calories consumed. When there is an excess of Calories consumed, that's when the body mashes the excess together and stores it as Fat (Adipose Tissue).

Ethanol, though, is used differently by the body.

First, when Ethanol is present, this is what the body (via the Liver, mainly) switches to as its primary energy source. That roughly means that other energy sources (e.g. F/P/C) will not be used till all of the Ethanol has been metabolised, if they are used at all.

Secondly, whilst Ethanol isn't in itself toxic (well, kinda…), it's first metabolite (what it's broken down into) - Acetaldehyde - is… and, relative to alcohol, I've read that it's ~30 times more toxic.

But, anyway:

Ethanol is broken down by the enzyme Alcohol Dehydrogenase into Acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde is toxic, an irritant, and a carcinogen. Put it in humans, and it will fuck their shit up. It causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, incoordination, memory impairment, swelling, flushing of the skin, etc. It's one of the main causing factors of hangovers.

Luckily, the body is prepared for this metabolite, and quickly tries to break it down before too much damage is done. People have argued this is why the liver prioritises Ethanol over other fuel sources (i.e. humans that didn't prioritise Ethanol all died off). The body also uses antioxidants, such as Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin C, to deal with the Acetaldehyde (hence why these vitamins help with hangovers but, more importantly, this a reason for why CAs can incur a deficiency in these vitamins).

But, again, anyway:

Acetaldehyde is broken down by the enzyme Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase into Acetic Acid.

Actually, I'm going to take a break here to go back to Acetaldehyde.

I've mentioned what it does to the body. If you're familiar with Alcohol Flush (e.g. Asian Flush/Asian Glow), where a person's face will go bright red after drinking alcohol, this is a reaction due to there being too much Acetaldehyde within said person's system.

This is commonly seen in Far Eastern Asians due to a 'defective' allele or absent isozyme of (at least) one of the aforementioned first two enzymes responsible for alcohol metabolism.

Most commonly this is a problem that is found to lie with the second enzyme involved - Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase - thus meaning that the Acetaldehyde is not metabolised fast enough into Acetic Acid, causing a (relatively rapid) rising accumulation of Acetaldehyde. However, the issue may lie with the first enzyme involved - Alcohol Dehydrogenase - thus meaning that Ethanol is too rapidly metabolised into Acetaldehyde, again causing the aforementioned (relatively rapid) rising accumulation of Acetaldehyde.

The long-short of it is that, besides the flushing reaction, other symptoms (i.e. many of those that one would associate with a hangover) will also affect the sufferer. Unsurprisingly, this typically leads to a lower rate of alcoholism amongst those affected by this reaction… though, in my own experience, it rarely ends their night.

If you don't suffer from these reactions but want to know what it all feels like, get yourself a prescription to Disulfiram (Antabuse) or Calcium Carbimide (Temposil) [FYI, the latter is a safer medication from all reports I have read]. These drugs interfere with the function of the second enzyme - Acetaldehyde Dehydrogenase - meaning that once Ethanol is metabolised into Acetaldehyde, it hangs around for far longer and in far larger quantities (~750% larger) than it would normally. With these drugs in your system (I believe a dose of Antabuse is effective for up to 12 hours, Temposil for up to 8 hours), and after an exposure to Ethanol, you should start to feel very hungover within ~15 minutes. Personally, I think these drugs are dangerous and change nothing within the mind of an addict, but if you are thinking of quitting they do help some people… you'd have to be a masochist to take such drugs on the regular and still drink, assuming they affect you as intended.

Anyway, back to the metabolic route:

Ethanol --> + Alcohol Hydrogenase --> Acetaldehyde --> + Acetaldehyde Hydrogenase --> Acetic Acid (aka, Acetate)

Acetate is harmless, and is then further broken down into Acetyl-CoA, which the body uses for energy or to produce Ketones. This is where the majority (let's say ~95% for simplicity's sake) of used Ethanol calories end up.

Whilst the above all occurs at the liver, Ethanol is also metabolised (in far smaller quantities) by other parts of the body, such as the Pancreas and the Brain, which all (just like the Liver) sustain damage by doing so.

Note: besides the enzymes I have listed above, CYP2E1 is another enzyme involved in the process of metabolising Ethanol within the Liver.

Whilst it is commonly assumed that the liver can only metabolise x amount of alcohol over a set time as standard, x certainly varies between people, and chronic alcoholics have been shown to metabolise Ethanol at a rate as high as (I believe) 4 times their 'normal'. This is mostly due to elevated levels of said enzymes.

Back to Calories… like I said, about 95% of used Ethanol Calories end up as Acetate. Excess Acetate cannot, and does not, end up as Fat. It, however, remains the body's primary source of energy, thus entailing that any other present sources of energy (e.g. F/P/C) maintain their 'excess' status until they are dealt with.

Less than 5% of Ethanol Calories can end up as stored fat, but in practice this doesn't really happen, particularly as Ethanol metabolism is a difficult process that uses a lot of energy itself.

Net result: if your diet solely consists of Ethanol Calories, and you consume (even well) over your needed level (e.g. 3000 Calories of Ethanol, compared to your needed 2000 Calories a day), you will not gain weight.

However: if you add in other energy sources, and there is an excess of Calories, then this excess (from the other energy sources) will be ultimately be converted to stored fat, or it will simply be passed as waste.

Also, keep in mind that I am strictly only talking about Ethanol calories when it comes to Alcoholic beverages. If your source of Ethanol contains other energy sources (e.g. Carbohydrates), then these other energy sources will be treated separately. Thus, drinks like sugary cocktails or beer or whatever are far more likely to cause weight gain than drinking low sugar alcoholic drinks like wine, or (basically) nil sugar alcoholic drinks like straight liquor.

Anyway, that's what I wanted to write about Ethanol being used as a source of energy.

If I have made any errors, or you want to add anything else, please let us all know below in the comments.
« Last Edit: 09 August, 2012, 01:11 PM by AshSimmonds »


Quote from: -Closure-
One of the biggest issues with being CA is the malnourishment that can result, either due to the lifestyle or the alcohol itself.

Here, I am going to cover B Vitamins.

Please note that I have absolutely zero background in science (post high school). If you have any information to add, or correct, please do so in the comments below. Also, I strongly urge that no one ever takes anything I say as medical advice nor information, but rather just as my own personal thoughts.

Vitamin B1/Thiamine

Yeast, Marmite, Pork, Cereal Grains, Tuna, Sunflower Seeds, Nuts, Asparagus, Spinach

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Thiamine?
First, Thiamine needs to be ingested as part of one's diet. Malnourishment as part of the CA lifestyle is the leading cause of a Thiamine deficiency.

Ethanol disrupts both the absorption of any consumed Thiamine and the use/storage of it. Thiamine is also used up as an antioxidant during the metabolism of Ethanol.

  • What are the symptoms of Thiamine deficiency?
Thiamine deficiency is possibly the most dangerous and widespread within CAs.

Symptoms of Thiamine deficiency can be divided into three: 1) Wet Beriberi; 2) Dry Beriberi; 3) Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

  • Wet Beriberi

Wet Beriberi is the collective name of symptoms that affect the Cardiovascular System.

Symptoms are: increased heart tate; Stopping breathing mid-sleep; Swelling in the legs; Shortness of breath.

Ultimately, it can lead to heart failure and death.

  • Dry Beriberi

Dry Beriberi is the collective name of symptoms that affect the Peripheral Nervous System.

Symptoms are: Difficulty walking; Loss of sensation in the extremities; Paralysis of the lower legs; Confusion; Pain; Vomiting.

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is the collective name of symptoms that affect the Central Nervous System. The condition is commonly referred to as 'Wet Brain'.

First, one is affected by Wernicke's encephalopathy, then Korsakoff's psychosis (it's about ~85% certain to follow).

Wernicke's encephalopathy has the symptoms of: Confusion; Involuntary and/or impaired eye movement; Lack of muscle coordination. Left untreated, the sufferer can fall into a coma and die.

Korsakoff's psychosis has the symptoms of: Inability to recall past memories; Inability to create new memories; Creation of false memories; Hallucinations; and a 'dead mind'.

Vitamin B2/Riboflavin

Almonds, Spinach, Asparagus, Milk, Broccoli, Yogurt, Eggs

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Riboflavin?
Again, Riboflavin is hard to keep a hold of. It is excreted rapidly, and thus needs rapid uptake via one's diet.

Ethanol also dramatically decreases the efficacy of consumed Riboflavin. A CA may need 5-10 times the RDA of Riboflavin to make up for Ethanol's effects.

  • What are the symptoms of Riboflavin deficiency?
Initial signs are cracked, sore, and inflamed mouth areas. Mouth ulcers may develop, one's nose may peel, and a sore throat may become apparent. In men, their scrotum may start to peel and, in women, peeling may affect their labia.

Other issues may be eye related, such as increased sensitivity to light, tears, burning and itching skin, and blurred vision.

Generally if one is deficient in B2, then one is likely to be deficient in other nutrients, such as B1, which entail worse symptoms.

Vitamin B3/Niacin

Marmite, Fish (e.g. Tuna, Halibut), Chicken, Liver, Red Meat, Peanuts, Legumes

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Niacin?
Niacin deficiency is basically unheard of in the developed world, but once you throw in CA, suddenly it becomes a problem.

Why? Bad diet, and that Ethanol massively disrupts the body's ability to use and store Niacin.

Also, Tryptophan - one of the 20 standard amino acids, and [one of the 9 essentials])http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essential_amino_acid) - is normally used by the body to synthesise Niacin within the Liver. However, Ethanol disrupts this process, further reducing the availability of Niacin. Low levels of Vitamin B6 will further inhibit this conversion.

  • What are the symptoms of Niacin deficiency?
The early symptoms are commonly: Fatigue; Vomiting; Depression; Mouth ulcers; and Fatigue.

If the deficiency of Niacin continues to get worse, it can progress into the disease called Pellagra.

Symptoms for this disease hold the unsettling title: the four Ds. These are:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Dermatitis
  • Dementia
  • Death

Other symptoms are: Insomnia; Ataxia; Skin lesions; and even Dilated cardiomyopathy.

Vitamin B6/Pyridoxine

Tuna, Salmon, Chicken, Turkey, Bananas, Potatoes, Nuts, Spinach, Asparagus

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Pyridoxine?
The active form of Vitamin B6 is called Pyridoxal phosphate, which is commonly referred to as PLP.

PLP is formed in the liver from other forms of B6, which are: Pyridoxine; Pyridoxal; and Pyridoxamine.

However, the first metabolite in Ethanol metabolism - Acetaldehyde - inhibits the conversion of these into the active form of B6, PLP. This in turn leads to a B6 deficiency.

  • What are the symptoms of Pyridoxine deficiency?
The symptoms can be grouped into three sets:

  • Skin Symptoms

These can be: Dermatitis; Eczema; Sore tongue; Cheilitis, etc.

  • Circulatory System Symptoms

These primarily lead from a decrease in the formation of red blood cells: Sideroblastic anemia; Malaise; Fatigue.

  • Nervous System Symptoms

These can be: Irritability; Nervousness; Depression; Short-term memory loss; Confusion.

In the most severe cases, a B6 deficiency can trigger seizures.

Vitamin B9/Folic Acid

Lentils, Spinach, Beans, Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Yolk, Kidney, Liver

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Folic Acid?
Firstly, Ethanol massively affects the body's ability to absorb and use Folate (the form of Folic Acid that is used by the body). This occurs both in the Small Intestine the Liver of a CA.

Secondly, being a CA can mean that your Kidneys will have a higher rate of excretion (of Folate), again leading to a decrease in the body's ability to use it.

  • What are the symptoms of Folic Acid deficiency?
One issue with Folate deficiency is that its symptoms overlap strongly with B12 deficiency, and the two can be confused with each other.

However, common initial symptoms are: Loss of Appetite; Glossitis; Nausea; Diarrhoea; Low libido; Mood disorders; Heart palpitations; Peripheral neuropathy.

Advanced Folate deficiency can lead to Megaloblastic anaemia. This can also be aggravated by a B12 deficiency. This type of Anaemia means that one's Red Blood Cells are larger than normal, with the inner contents undeveloped. These cells have a much reduced life expectancy. This condition can lead to serious organ failure.

There are also strong links to increased rates of cancer in those with diets low in Folic Acid.

Vitamin B12

Liver, Sardines, Mackerel, Shellfish, Salmon, Eggs, Milk, Shrimp

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Vitamin B12?
Ethanol's damage to the body's ability to absorb nutrients through its Gastrointestinal tract is still the recurring theme. A stomach that has had its acid levels inhibited by ethanol will also struggle to aid in the absorption of B12.

  • What are the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency (or, hypocobalaminemia) is typically first characterised by issues caused by the lack of production of enough red blood cells (Anaemia).

This can mean: Fatigue; Shortness of breath; Tingling in the extremities; Dizziness; Heart palpitations.

A B12 deficiency also has adverse effects on the Nervous System, characterised by: Reduced sense of touch; Pins and needles; Ataxia; Reduced reflexes; Degeneration of spinal cord.

If there is a Folate deficiency, and it advances to the stage of the aforementioned Megaloblastic anaemia, than a B12 deficiency will further aggravate it.


Quote from: -Closure-
One of the biggest issues with being CA is the malnourishment that can result, either due to the lifestyle or the alcohol itself.

I've covered B Vitamins. Now I'm going to cover the rest of the relevant Vitamins.

Please note that I have absolutely zero background in science, or at least zero post high school. If you have any information to add, or correct, please do so in the comments below.

Also, I strongly urge that no one ever takes anything I say as medical advice nor information, but rather just as my own personal thoughts. There is obviously a clear difference there, and it is very important to me that this difference is understood.

Vitamin A

Liver, Cod Liver Oil, Carrots, Broccoli, Sweet Potato, Spinach

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Vitamin A?
Vitamin A has a number of forms. Retinol is one of them - and is itself an Alcohol - and whilst it can't be used in that form, it can be converted into the active forms of Vitamin A, which are Retinaldehyde and Retinoic Acid.

Under normal metabolic conditions, this is the (simple) chain of events:

  • Retinol --] + Alcohol Dehydrogenase (enzyme) --] Retinaldehyde
  • Retinaldehyde --] + Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (enzyme) --] Retinoic Acid
However, when there are high levels of Ethanol in one's system, this process encounters a bottleneck at the first step (Retinol --] Retinaldehyde) due to Ethanol's inhibition of Alcohol Dehydrogenase's metabolic role.

This bottleneck means that, as a consequence, there is a strong drop is Retinoic Acid. Whilst Retinaldehyde is necessary to produce Rhodopsin, a pigment in the retina that aids with vision in low light (hence the belief that Carrots help you see in the dark), Retinoic Acid covers all the other roles that Vitamin A plays (such as skin health, teeth health, bone growth, gene transcription, and general growth and development).

Poor diet, as usual, is another key factor. This applies to all nutrients.

I would like to also note that Vitamins A, C, E and K are all Fat-Soluble. So, whilst poor diet may lead to a deficiency of these vitamins, a CA's body will struggle to absorb them from any consumed food due to Ethanol wreaking havoc on the body's abilities to absorb fats.

On top of this, as AngryGoose kindly pointed out, it is also possible to overdose on these Vitamins due to their Fat-Soluble natures.

  • What are the symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency?
In developing countries, low levels of Retinaldehyde frequently leads to blindness, with between a quarter to half a million children going blind a year due to this. High rates of night blindness can also be found in developing countries.
However, in relation to a CA, the symptoms are more likely to be decreasing health of skin, hair, and the immune system.

Vitamin C

Peppers, Broccoli, Blackcurrants, Strawberries, Pineapple, Oranges, Spinach, Liver

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Vitamin C?
Besides the CA lifestyle commonly entailing a bad diet, Vitamin C is used by the body as an antioxidant. In the process of metabolising Ethanol, the body uses Vitamin C (alongside Thiamine to help deal with Ethanol's metabolite - Acetaldehyde - which is highly toxic.

Considering Acetaldehyde is responsible for a large proportion of hangover symptoms, those with high levels of Vitamin C (and B1) will feel such symptoms less.

  • What are the symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency?
Initial symptoms are typically: Poor wound healing; Weak immune system; Fatigue; Malaise; Bleeding gums; Bruising easily; Dry hair and skin.

If there is a chronic deficiency of Vitamin C, this can lead to Scurvy.

Scurvy can result in: Jaundice; Oedema; Peripheral neuropathy; Fever; Seizure; and Death.

Vitamin D

Cod liver oil, Fatty fish (e.g. Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Sardines), Milk, Eggs, Cereals, Liver, Mushrooms, (and exposure to Sunlight).

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Vitamin D?
Besides poor diet, another reason CAs may lack Vitamin D is due to the fact that Ethanol inhibits the body's ability to absorb consumed fats. Because Vitamin D is usually found in food sources that are fatty (it is fat-soluble), Ethanol thus inhibits the body's absorption of Vitamin D, too.

  • What are the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency?
Vitamin D deficiency (Hypovitaminosis D) is known for causing weak bones, but it is also responsible for the weakening of muscles.

Symptoms include: Muscle twitching; Muscle aches; Muscle weakness; Bone fragility; Bone softening.

Vitamin E

Wheat germ products, Sunflower products, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Spinach, Peppers

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Vitamin E?
Besides Ethanol inhibiting the body's abilities to absorb fats (Vitamin E is fat-soluble), Vitamin E is also used by the body as an antioxidant. Because Ethanol metabolism results in oxidative stress (an example of this is the toxicity that results in the liver), Vitamin E may be used by the body to help alleviate any resulting toxicity.

  • What are the symptoms of Vitamin E deficiency?
Vitamin E deficiency can result in some pretty severe symptoms.

These include: Ataxia; Spinocerebellar ataxia; Myopathy; Retinopathy; Skeletal myopathy; Peripheral neuropathy; and a Weak immune system.

Vitamin K

Spinach, Broccoli, Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Avocado, Parsley

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Vitamin K?
Vitamin K is processed into its active forms by the liver. However, because of Ethanol's effect on the liver, this can lead to disruption of this processing and thus a deficiency in Vitamin K.

  • What are the symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency?
The most common symptoms of Vitamin K deficiency are Bruising and Bleeding.

Symptoms include: Poor healing; Excessive bruising (e.g. Ecchymosis, Petechia, Hematoma); Excessive bleeding; Nosebleeds; Bleeding gums; Anaemia; Fragile bones; Calcification of organs (possibly leading to organ failure); Aortic calcification and Coronary heart disease.


Quote from: -Closure-
One of the biggest issues with being CA is the malnourishment that can result, either due to the lifestyle or the alcohol itself.

I've covered B Vitamins and the Other Vitamins. Now I'm going to cover Minerals and Antioxidants.

Please note that I have absolutely zero background in science, or at least zero post high school. If you have any information to add, or correct, please do so in the comments below.

Also, I strongly urge that no one ever takes anything I say as medical advice nor information, but rather just as my own personal thoughts. There is obviously a clear difference there, and it is very important to me that this difference is understood.


Cheese, Milk, Yoghurt, Tofu, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Peanuts

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Calcium?
First, there is the matter of CAs having poor diets. This applies to all nutrients.

Secondly, due to Ethanol's adverse effects on the body's ability to absorb fats, many CAs struggle to absorb any consumed Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important regarding the body's absorption of Calcium, and thus depleted levels of Vitamin D will lead to reduced levels of Calcium absorption. You may have seen Calcium/Vitamin D supplements for this reason.

Thirdly, Cortisol - a stress hormone - is found to have abnormally high levels amongst Alcoholics. Cortisol inhibits Calcium absorption within the intestine.

  • What are the symptoms of Calcium deficiency?
Calcium deficiency usually occurs alongside a Vitamin D deficiency.

Symptoms include: Numbness in the extremities; Muscle cramps; Lethargy; Poor appetite; Irritability; Impaired cognitive capacities; Softening of the bones; Fragility of the bones; and Death.


Red meat, Offal (e.g. liver), Legumes, Spinach, Nuts

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Iron?
The main reason alcoholics suffer from low Iron is due to Gastrointestinal bleeding. This is commonly due to Gastritis or, worse, a Peptic ulcer.

  • What are the symptoms of Iron deficiency?
Initial symptoms are: Fatigue; Dizziness; Pale skin; Brittle nails; Hair loss; Weakened immune system; Restless legs syndrome.

If the issue is chronic, this can lead to Iron deficiency anaemia.

Symptoms of this Anaemia add: Anxiety; Irritability; Depression; Mouth ulcers; Heart palpitations; Muscle twitches; Flat nails; etc.


Spinach, Beans, Peas, Almonds, Wheat, Oats, Peanuts, Halibut

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Magnesium?
There are many reasons why Ethanol causes low levels of Magnesium [e.g. Magnesium deficiency or Hypomagnesaemia.

The first is due to poor diet. Even if a CA's intake of Magnesium is high, alcoholism leads to massively decreased absorption of consumed Magnesium by the intestines.

Secondly, of that Magnesium that is absorbed, Ethanol causes the kidneys to excrete it at a rate ~2.5 times higher than what is normal. This only furthers the deficit.

Finally, the Vomiting and Diarrhoea that is associated with alcoholism will compound that rate of excretion of consumed Magnesium.

  • What are the symptoms of Magnesium deficiency?
Symptoms for Magnesium deficiency are very serious.

Initial symptoms are: Hyper-excitability; Dizziness; Muscle cramps; Muscle weakness; Fatigue; Shakes; and Cardiac arrhythmia.

Other symptoms that follow if the situation gets worse are: Low Calcium levels; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_in_biology]Low Potassium levels[/url]; Low levels of Parathyroid hormone; Confusion; Mood disorders; Seizure; Tetany; Rapid heart rate; Hallucinations; and eventually Death from Heart failure.


Shellfish (e.g. Oysters, Lobster, Crab), Red meat (e.g. Beef, Lamb, Liver), Milk, Wheat, Seeds

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Zinc?
Alcoholism will lead to impaired absorption of Zinc, as well as increasing the rate of Zinc's excretion. This is aggravated by any damage that Ethanol has done to the body's liver. Low levels of Zinc will in-turn aggravate a damaged Liver, thus creating a vicious circle.

Additionally, a deficiency of the Vitamins A and D can lead to a Zinc deficiency.

  • What are the symptoms of Zinc deficiency?
Globally, Zinc deficiency is very common, with about one third of the total Human population suffering from it.

Common symptoms are: Impaired senses (Taste, Smell, Eyesight); Poor memory; White spots on one's nails; Decrease in appetite; Depression; Lethargy; Weakened immune system.

Severe symptoms are: Hair loss; Diarrhoea; Impotence; Decreased function of the testes; Skin lesions.


Brazil nuts, Kidney, Tuna, Cod, Crab, Turkey, Chicken, Beef, Mushrooms, Eggs

  • How does Ethanol affect one's level of Selenium?
The main cause is the diet of a CA. Additionally, impaired Liver function lends itself to furthering a Selenium deficiency. An Iron deficiency will also worsen a Selenium deficiency. Finally, the damage that Ethanol does to one's intestines will reduce the absorption of any consumed Selenium.

  • What is the relationship between Selenium and Ethanol?
Selenium is an Antioxidant, and acts so as to reduce the effects of Oxidative stress. During the process of Ethanol metabolism, a great deal of Oxidative stress results, and Selenium helps to alleviate the impact of damage caused by this reaction.

Selenium also helps to repair Liver function, which will have been damaged in the process of metabolising Ethanol.

N-acetylcysteine (NAC)

  • Food Sources
NAC's is a derivative of the Amino acid Cysteine, which can be found to some degree in Animal proteins and Plant proteins.

However, NAC is best sourced as a supplement.

  • What is the relationship between NAC and Ethanol?
NAC is most widely known for being the antidote to Paracetemol (Tylenol) overdose, something it achieves due to its role in increasing the body's levels of the antioxidant Glutathione.

Likewise, to deal with the toxic nature of Ethanol metabolism, NAC is itself metabolised into Glutathione, which then serves to help detoxify the Liver whilst the Ethanol is being metabolised, as well as protecting the Liver from incurring further damage.

The aforementioned amino acid Cysteine is also very effective at helping with the metabolism of Acetaldehyde - the highly toxic metabolite of Ethanol - into the (relatively) harmless metabolite Acetic acid.

NAC is best taken with Thiamine, which also plays an antioxidant role during the Liver's metabolism of Ethanol.

Anyway, that's the end of the CAs and Nutrition series. Cheers for reading, and be healthy.


Ethanol and Hormones

This post mainly covers how Ethanol affects the human body's Hormonal System (better referred to as the Endocrine System), but it starts briefly by carrying on from the previous 'Ethanol and Energy' post, i.e. Ethanol's affect on the human body's general Metabolism.

Please note that I have absolutely zero background in science, or at least zero post high school. If you have any information to add, or correct, please do so in the comments below. Also, I strongly urge that no one ever takes anything I say as medical advice nor information, but rather just as my own personal thoughts. There is obviously a clear difference there, and it is very important to me that this difference is understood.


Right… So, the first and most obvious effect Ethanol has on one's general Metabolism is that it slows it right down. Because your liver (and some other organs) are focused on dealing with the Ethanol, many of their other maintenance functions (such as protein synthesis for muscle growth) and so on will suffer as a direct consequence.

Hypoglycaemia, Hyperglycaemia, and Diabetes

If you are drinking straight liquor on an empty stomach, for instance, you are very likely to suffer from Hypoglycaemia (Low Blood Sugar), as your Pancreas isn't releasing enough of the hormone Glucagon to maintain a healthy blood sugar level, or the Glucagon is disrupted at the Liver. Symptoms of Hypoglycaemia are pretty horrid, such as nausea and cold sweats and heart palpitations and dizziness. If you suddenly switch from drinking beer each night to drinking liquor, or switch from regular coke to diet coke in your mixed drinks, you might also notice these symptoms start to happen.

Over time, chronic alcoholism generally causes a switch in the other direction, leading to Hyperglycaemia and, for some, Diabetes , due to a (gradually induced) reduced sensitivity to Insulin.

Ethanol, in reality, doesn't play nice with the human body's hormones, Insulin being just one… it's just a real bitch when it comes to one's Endocrine System.

Diureticand Vasopressin

As you all know, Ethanol is a Diuretic , meaning it's gonna make you piss a lot. The reason for this is that it impairs the release of Vasopressin , the 'Antidiuretic hormone'. What obviously follows is Dehydration, which besides making you thirsty causes a lot of other nasty symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue and dizziness and an increased heart rate… and in some really bad cases, confusion --> delirium --> unconsciousness --> death. Dehydration also interferes with other bodily functions that you won't be aware of, such as the repair of muscles, etc.

HGH andSlow Wave Sleep

Now, introducing HGH, or the Human Growth Hormone. HGH, whilst obviously playing a large role in one's growth during childhood and adolescence, plays a large role in maintaining one's organs, muscle mass, bone strength, and the immune system. Low HGH levels can cause issues such as reduced muscle and bone mass, reduced energy, impaired memory and concentration, increased body fat, and heart issues.

Sleep, for a normal person, is divided into Four Stages . The last two stages, 3 and 4, are what we call 'Deep Sleep' (scientifically known as Slow Wave Sleep ). It is during Slow Wave Sleep when the body, normally, releases ~50% of the day's dose of HGH. However, for an alcoholic, getting such sleep is most likely a pipe dream. Simply, the brain is drunk and sleep is a pretty complicated process. This means that the typical drunk sleep will be very light and most likely have little, if any, Slow Wave Sleep. If you add in middle-of-the-night withdrawals, when the Depressant Effect of Ethanol wears off and you are left with a Stimulatory Rebound (waking you), as well as REM Rebound  (where Rapid Eye Movement sleep goes from near non-existent to a level that's very intense, leading to all those bizarre nightmares that can bleed into wakefulness and cause hallucinations, etc), and so on… the bottom line is that sleep becomes extremely difficult, let alone Slow Wave Sleep. This, thus, causes a large drop in one's daily HGH supply… perhaps as high as ~50%, whilst some estimate a reduction as high as ~70%.

Testosterone and Oestrogen

Testosterone is also massively affected by Ethanol. Whilst it's debatable whether Ethanol causes a decrease or rise in Testosterone levels within the 24 hours that follow it being imbibed - and there might not be a rule for that scenario, anyway - it's pretty much definite that Chronic Alcoholics will find that their Ethanol intake is responsible for a chronic and large drop in Testosterone. For some whose Testosterone is already too high, this isn't exactly a bad thing, though for others it might be. We're talking reductions of about ~25%, though some claim as low as 10% and as high as 50%. These are, relative to natural changes in Testosterone levels, not massively high, but the key factor is that they are chronic reductions, not temporary. Reasons for this drop are debatable, but could again be as simple as disrupted sleep or malnourishment. Other suggestions are that, in men at least, alcohol is directly toxic to the gonads… gonads (the testes and the ovaries) being responsible in both sexes for the production of Testosterone. In adults of both genders, low Testosterone can cause decreased libido and sexual enjoyment, fat gain, decreased muscle and bone mass, irritability, and depression. Blokes can lose their erection strength and fertility, too, as well as developing Gynecomastia, and shrinking balls to top it off.

Oh, and conversely, increased levels of Oestrogen are observed in chronic alcoholics. For the male symptoms, see above. Women though, in addition to the above, are put at increased risk of breast cancer.


Finally, the last hormone I'm going to cover is Cortisol. Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone", because - guess what - it's released by the Adrenal Glands during periods of stress (physical and mental… go monism). The released Cortisol then causes the increase of blood sugar levels (which gives your brain a boost), as well as constricting many of the body's blood vessels (increasing blood pressure and heart rate, whilst reducing the proximity of said blood vessels to the skin's surface), and also triggering an anti-inflammatory response throughout the body (which in turn reduces any pain caused by inflammation).

However, a high level of Cortisol, caused for instance by prolonged secretion, has many negative effects. And yep, alcoholics show highly elevated levels of Cortisol, with the relationship between Ethanol and Cortisol recently becoming increasingly understood.

Cortisol, being a stress hormone, is beneficial in the aforementioned ways, but at the expense of other bodily functions in order to divert the body's energies into maintaining a fight-or-flight state. For instance, to enable the increased blood sugar levels, it promotes the usage of the body's muscle tissue and even calcium stores (thus reducing the body's bone tissue) in order to achieve this. This, over time, leads to decreased muscle and bone mass. Other sacrifices include the digestive system, the reproductive system (increasing the likelihood of miscarriage and, temporarily, infertility), the immune system (due to its anti-inflammatory response), etc. The body's ability to repair itself also suffers, as does one's mental performance (particularly when involving the memory faculties). Cortisol also promotes fat storage, particularly around the abdomen (i.e. a beer belly).

Prolonged exposure to very high levels of Cortisol can constitute a diagnosis of Cushing's Syndrome, and the observed relationship between Alcoholism and Cortisol has thus led to the term 'psuedo-Cushing's Syndrome', where the symptoms are obviously very similar between the two… though, in the case of the latter, simple abstinence from Ethanol is luckily enough to reverse the symptoms of the syndrome.

Anyway, that's what I wanted to write about Ethanol's effects on the human body's Hormonal System.

« Last Edit: 19 June, 2014, 12:57 AM by Ash Simmonds »


Eat saturated fat – not polyunsaturated – to minimise liver damage from alcoholism

Yeah, it’s only a mouse study, but still…


Anyhoo, here’s some extracts from the article:

A primary safety concern with alcohol is its effect on the liver. Alcohol consumption can produce fatty liver disease and, eventually, a scarred and damaged liver (cirrhosis).

Interestingly, in animal studies
the harmful effects of alcohol on the liver occur only when it is combined with polyunsaturated fats

…researchers hailed saturated fat as “a novel treatment for liver disease…

Mice fed 27.5% of calories as alcohol developed severe liver disease and metabolic syndrome when given a corn oil diet, but no disease at all when given a cocoa butter diet. (Corn oil is 55% polyunsaturated, cocoa butter is predominantly saturated fat and is less than 3% polyunsaturated.)

The first line of this paper begins, “The protective effect of dietary saturated fatty acids against the development of alcoholic liver disease has long been known.”

The more saturated fat, the healthier the liver.

Alcohol is metabolized in the liver just like fructose, a toxic sugar. Polyunsaturated fats are chemically fragile and quick to react with sugars; saturated fat, which lacks fragile carbon double bonds, does not.

It seems that if you keep your liver clear of polyunsaturated fats, the alcohol will be disposed of safely.

Mice on a saturated fat diet can get 27.5% of calories as alcohol with no liver damage. In humans, that would correspond to a daily 350 ml (12 fluid ounce) bottle of 80-proof gin, rum, or vodka, or a liter (36 fluid ounces, 1.3 bottles) of red wine.

Drink up, and enjoy a steak with butter.


Liver is evil but need not be punished. SFAs.

 - Ethanol and dietary unsaturated fat (corn oil/linoleic acid enriched) cause intestinal inflammation and impaired intestinal barrier defense in mice chronically fed alcohol

 - The type of dietary fat modulates intestinal tight junction integrity, gut permeability, and hepatic toll-like receptor expression in a mouse model of alcoholic liver disease

Dietary fat is an important cofactor in alcohol-associated liver injury. We demonstrate that USF (corn oil/linoleic acid) by itself results in dysregulation of intestinal TJ integrity leading to increased gut permeability, and alcohol further exacerbates these alterations. We postulate that elevated blood endotoxin levels in response to USF and alcohol in conjunction with up-regulation of hepatic TLRs combine to cause hepatic injury in ALD.

 - “Increases in dietary saturated fat increased liver membrane resistance to oxidative stress…” by replacing PUFAs with SFAs.

It’s like a feed forward downward spiral.  If you don’t eat saturated fat & MCTs prior to imbibing, then liver intentionally makes more PUFAs for the alcohol-induced burning ROS to molest.


Alcohol-proof your liver. SFAs.

Translation: while a single meal of dark chocolate and coconut oil may not acutely protect the liver from alcohol [tonight], a few days’ worth just might.


Red meat. While the saturated fat content of red meat is expected to similarly bolster liver resistance to oxidative stress, another component – carnitine (of the recent TMAO infamy) – may also provide some benefit by enhancing liver fat turnover (Kepka et al., 2011 sorry no full text, so only in theory). Taurine, also found in red meat, also prevents some alcohol-induced liver pathologies [in rats] (Kerai et al., 1998 & Pushpakiran et al., 2005).


Alcoholic liver disease

Saturated fatty acids are protective against ALD. Polyunsaturated fatty acids potentiate alcohol induced liver injury by inducing cytochromeP-450 2E1. Fatty acid saturation decreases CYP2E1 activity and lipid peroxidation in rat studies. Nanjiet al showed that when alcohol feeding was stopped in rats and the dietary fat was switched from fish oil rich in polyunsaturates to palm oil rich in saturated fatty acids, the alcohol induced liver injury was reversed to normal.42 When rats were fed fish oil continuously before and after alcohol withdrawal, the liver injury persisted.


Dietary saturated fatty acids: a novel treatment for alcoholic liver disease

A diet enriched in saturated but not unsaturated fatty acids reversed alcoholic liver injury. This effect may be explained by down-regulation of lipid peroxidation.


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