The New Paper, Dec 17, 2018 06:00 am
More than three million people worldwide died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016, according to a report released by the World Health Organisation in September, representing one in 20 deaths.
Yet alcohol is still a common sight at social events and festivals, and can be enjoyable if consumed responsibly and in moderation.
Overconsumption of alcohol can affect both physical and mental abilities, disrupt sleep and contribute to weight gain. In the long term, it also increases the risk of developing certain cancers and medical conditions such as liver damage, high blood pressure, heart diseases and malnutrition.
Besides, one gram of alcohol has 7kcal high caloric value amount, double the value of carbohydrate and protein (4kcal for every gram), and similar to that of fat (9kcal for every gram).
As alcohol contains very little nutritional value, it is often considered to be "empty calories" and a danger to your waistline.
With the festive season around the corner, Ms Alyssa Chan and Tay Su Mei, dietitians at SingHealth Polyclinics, share what you need to know about drinking before you toast the night away.
IS THERE ANY BENEFIT IN CONSUMING ALCOHOL?
Most of the studies that link alcohol to beneficial health is related to the antioxidants (red pigments) found in red wine. However, antioxidants are available in fruits and vegetables as well.
Alcohol can be addictive, therefore it is never advisable to start if one does not drink. However, if you do drink, do it responsibly and in moderation.
IS ALCOHOL DANGEROUS?
Alcohol can be dangerous as it influences an individual's judgement and behaviour, with drink-driving as an example. Particularly during festivals and occasions, drinking is deemed as a form of celebration and hence it may be difficult to stop at one glass.
WHAT IS A SAFE AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL TO CONSUME?
Alcohol consumption, in any amount, can affect the body. Drinking in moderation is the key. The Health Promotion Board recommends no more than two standard drinks a day for men, and no more than one standard drink a day for women.
A standard alcoholic drink is defined as one can (330ml) of regular beer, half a glass (175ml) of wine and one shot (35ml) of spirit.
In the event where weight is an issue, alcohol avoidance is encouraged.
HOW DOES ONE PREVENT EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION?
- Learn to say no. Do not be influenced by your peers or social circumstances. Focus on socialising and conversing with friends instead of drinking.
- If you must drink, drink slowly and do not treat alcohol as a thirst quencher.
- Avoid engaging in drinking games.
- Always stay hydrated and alternate your drinks with non-alcoholic drinks such as water, soda water or diet cordials.
ANY OTHER TIPS OR ADVICE ON ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION?
Avoid pre-mixed drinks with added sugars, or mixing alcohol with energy drinks as they can be higher in calories.
Never drink on an empty stomach. A light and nutritious snack or meal before a drinking session can keep you filled and help slow the absorption of alcohol.
Avoid salty food items as they can make you thirsty and reach out for more drinks.
Lower alcohol alternatives, such as light beer and wine spritzers, are sneaky ways to reduce your intake of alcohol as they have a lower alcohol and calorie content than the regular versions.
Refrain from low-carbohydrate beer, as while it is lower in carbohydrates and calories, it still contains the same alcohol content as regular beers.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a wine spritzer - half wine, half soda and a few ice cubes - instead of a full glass of wine.