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Alcohol and Diet - why there's more to it than just empty calories

According to British Liver Trust, since the implementation of the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, its helpline has seen a 500% increase in calls by people experiencing an out of control escalation in their alcohol consumption. Many of these individuals are feeling lonely, bored with little to do or depressed due to isolation, the reality is becoming grim as many join binge drinking virtual parties and "drinking hour" with their intimate communities on zoom for some semblance of a social life. Alcohol abuse is slowly surging as a shadow epidemic that's easy to hide as we have no need to leave the house nor experience the humiliation of a public hangover when we used to have 'office hours' the next day, with stats estimating that 40 people die from liver disease in the UK - and the third biggest cause of premature death for those between 35 - 49 years old. 

This behaviour is challenging in the fight against COVID because this is time when health is important to avoid compromising the immune system. Keeping a balanced diet and getting fit is important for overall holistic health and wellbeing, but it can also help those feeling the pressure of lockdown to cope better with this stressful time instead of turning to bottle to fill their time and manage stress. 

But with with social pressures, and the enjoyment factor, it’s unrealistic to expect people to cut out alcohol all together, but these tips and tricks can give you some pointers to keep your consumption in check before it becomes a long term problem that's out of your control.

Social gathering with alcohol | DNAfit Blog

To begin, a brief description of what happens to your system when you drink alcohol is needed. The most important thing to take into account is that as soon as alcohol enters your body, your body starts working to remove it. This is good news, because alcohol can become toxic fairly quickly if it is allowed to build up. Firstly, alcohol is processed in the stomach where about 20% of it enters into the bloodstream, immediately going to your brain. This is why you can feel the effects of an alcohol drink relatively quickly, because it doesn’t have to pass all the way through your digestive system before taking effect. The majority of alcohol is then processed in the liver. The liver is one of the main organs associated with the breakdown and removal of toxic compounds, but there’s only so much it can take – long term excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to permanent liver damage.

Dan Aykroyd Cooking | DNAfit Blog

When you are on a diet you’ll already have set predetermined goals such as increasing your athletic ability, losing weight or building muscle. Alcohol can impair progress on all of these. It contains almost twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates; these calories are often referred to as ‘empty’ because they are accompanied by very little nutrition. This can throw your diet out of balance because your taking in so much by getting so little out of it – excessive drinking often leads to unhealthy weight gain. When available to the body, alcohol is used for as an energy source preferentially and blocks the oxidation of other fuels such as fat and carbs, which can contribute to weight gain. 

There’s also the other side-effect of drinking. You know, that McDonald’s you’re having on your way back home without a care in the world. A night of heavy drinking can lower your blood sugar levels below normal, and decrease impulse control. A natural response to this for many people is to seek out quick, satisfying food- and a lot of it.

This isn’t to say that alcohol is all bad and that you should avoid it at all costs. Limiting alcohol intake to less than 14 units a week for women and men. This is equivalent to drinking no more than 6 pints of average-strength beer or 7 medium-sized glasses (175ml) of wine a week. Alcohol in moderation has been associated with reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, particular in people with certain variants of the ADH1 gene. Not only does excessive alcohol intake affect the risk of liver disease, it can also increase your risk of heart disease, depression, and several types of cancers.


When taking DNAfit’s DNA test we analyse the genes associated with alcohol sensitivity and can tell you if you fall into this category.

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Having a beer or two during the big game or a random night out with friends won’t kill you but if you’re looking to accelerate your journey towards your health and fitness goals, then reducing your intake of alcohol can be beneficial.


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