One of the most widely used and abused substances is alcohol. Alcohol is similar to drugs; it can cause addiction and becomes a social problem, especially among teens. Many teens, especially in Western countries are often dubbed as problem drinkers because they often get drunk, get into alcohol related accidents, and often get into trouble with the law and with family members and friends. All these are due to the bad effects of alcohol.
Alcohol: Its Effects On The Body
Alcoholic drinks differ by their alcohol content. While beer contains about 5% alcohol, wine usually contains about 12 to 15% of alcohol and hard liquor usually contains about 45% of alcohol. After consuming these drinks, alcohol gets easily into your bloodstream by being absorbed into your stomach and intestines. Once it gets inside the body, alcohol exerts its effects by slowing down your breathing, slowing down your heart rate, and affecting how your brain functions. With too much alcohol intake you may have reduced inhibitions, slurred speech, euphoria, motor impairment, stupor, coma, respiratory paralysis and death.
If there is too much consumption of alcohol, you may have many health risks such as alcohol dependence, risks for accidents, neck cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer and other cancers, risky sex behaviours, suicide and homicide. Drinking is also harmful for the pregnant woman and her baby; her baby may suffer from severe birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome. This is why you should drink responsible and be aware of these health risks. You can drink alcohol, but take it in moderation. If you are a man, you should not have more than two drinks per day and if you're a woman, you should not have more than 1 drink per day. A drink is defined a 5 ounce of wine,120 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor. Also, do not drink before you drive, do not drink on an empty stomach and do not drink when you are pregnant.
Alcohol and Pregnancy
A recent study shows that drinking alcohol during the early stages of pregnancy may damage the growth and function of the placenta. We know that the placenta is responsible for supplying nutrition and other needs to the baby until birth. This research was published in the journal PLoS One and was funded by the British Medical Association. In this study, the researchers investigated the effects of alcohol and its byproduct acetaldehyde on the placenta during the first few weeks of pregnancy. The first two weeks of pregnancy are crucial because it is during within this time that the three germ cell layers in the baby develop into internal organs. The results showed that at very low levels, alcohol did not have any effect on growth and function. However, after moderate and heavy intake, there was reduced transport of taurine, an amino acid, from the mother to baby through the placenta.
The fact that taurine delivery to the fetus is reduced during moderate to heavy alcohol drinking is important since taurine is an important amino acid for proper brain development. Acetaldehyde, on the other hand, did not have any effect on taurine transport. Children with reduced taurine often exhibit negative behaviours and retarded physical development; this might explain why children of alcoholic mothers often exhibit neurological symptoms. Also, alcohol and acetaldehyde are both toxic substances when they are at high levels in the body. The research further elaborates how much alcohol should be consumed to have specific effects on the placenta.
Alcohol was also noted to reduce placental growth. Reduced placental growth could lead to malnourishment of the fetus, since the fetus depends on the placenta for almost all its needs. This would lead to stunted growth and maybe an increased risk for congenital malformations.
If you want to read more on how to achieve a healthy pregnancy, feel free to browse other articles on this site.