Alcohol is known to be cardioprotective. This seems counterintuitive because we are told continually that alcohol is bad for our health Think about it for a second. Alcohol is bad for our health, but protects from cardiovascular disease. The reason for this discrepancy is that alcohol is a metabolic poison in large doses just like fructose. However, unlike fructose, it also has beneficial effects when dunk in moderate amounts, which may reduce the risk of heart attacks.
The Effects of Alcohol On The Liver
Alcohol negatively affects the liver when drunk in large amounts over long periods. This is because only the liver is able to metabolise alcohol. As a result of large intakes, nutrient overload leads to the production of fatty acids that subsequently accumulate in liver tissue. Excessive fat around the liver is termed alcoholic fatty liver and this can progress to cirrhosis of the liver and death. Interestingly fructose has the same effect but this is instead termed non-alcoholic fatty liver.
Other Negative Effects Of Alcohol
So alcohol damages the liver when drunk is large amounts over the long term. However, alcohol also has a number of other effect that can be said to be detrimental. Alcohol may decrease the absorbance of certain vitamins and minerals, and in the long term this may cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Certain B vitamins are known to often be low in alcoholics. In addition, the damage to the liver has negative effects on the metabolism of other nutrients.
Alcohol May Cause Weight Loss
Those who drink alcohol regularly have lower body weights than those who do not consume alcohol. The reason for this is unknown, but may relate to the fact that diets high in alcohol tend to be lower in sugar and other carbohydrates. Because body weight is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, alcohol may be protective of cardiovascular disease because of its weight loss effects. However, this is likely not the reason it protects from heart attacks.
Heart Attack Protection
Alcohol has another interesting property that may explain its ability to protect from heart attacks. When alcohol enters the blood it decreases the stickiness of platelets and reduces the risk of blood clots forming. As blood clots are required in order to cause a heart attack, alcohol can reduce the risk of sudden cardiovascular death. Protection following drinking lasts around 24 hours, and so for alcohol to provide long term protection from heart attacks, it must be consumed every day.
Alcohol And Blood Omega-3 Levels
So alcohol decreases the stickiness of platelets which decreases the risk of suffering a heart attack. Alcohols in general tend to be membrane disrupters and this may be the mechanism by which alcohol is effective. However, alcohol can also increase blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are converted to eicosanoid hormones which are known to have membrane fluidising effect. This may also therefore explain the cardioprotective effects of alcohol.