Alcohol is the "fourth macronutrient" because, for some people, it is a
significant calorie source that is not fat, not carbohydrate or protein. Alcohol
stands alone as a single distinct molecule formally known as ethanol, ethyl
alcohol or grain alcohol and because of its unique properties, it really cannot
be compared to other macronutrients.
Alcohol has seven kilo-calories per gram which makes it rather calorically
dense. On the other hand, the thermic effect of alcohol is very
high-somewhere between twenty and thirty percent making the molecule
about as inneficiently metabolized as protein.
What really separates alcohol from other macronutrients though are two facts:
that it is totally unnecessary nutritionally and that it is a potent and potentially
addictive and dangerous drug. People can live very healthy lives without ever
ingesting alcohol and conversely, alcohol consumption kills some people long
before their "time". For these reasons, it is misleading to call it a macronutrient.
Still, many people enjoy alcohol in moderation and in this context, it is a
not-insignificant calorie source whose effects upon weight and health deserve
Alcohol is Often an Appetite Stimulant
This may have something to do with why restaurants offer alcohol before
customers order food. Because of this fact, it may be better to drink while
eating rather than before eating.
Alcohol Impairs Judgement
Even one pre-dinner drink can put a carefully crafted eating plan at risk.
Alcohol makes people "throw caution to the wind". This can mean the difference
between a thoughtful meal and bachanalia.
Alcohol Is Calorie Dense
As mentioned above alcohol has 7 calories per gram making it more similar to fat
than other macronutrients. Unlike fat however, alcohol is inneficiently absorbed
(it's thermic effect is about 30%).
Health Benefits of Moderate Drinking
Men who drink up to two ounces of alcohol nightly and women who drink up to
one are considered "moderate" drinkers and substantial evidence exists that the
health benefits of this level of drinking outweight the risks. These benefits
vanish and are rapidly replaced by significant risks when drinking occurs in
excess of "moderation" as defined above.
Among the likely benefits of moderate alcohol consumption are reduced risk for
heart disease, dementia, osteoporosis, gallstones, diabetes and rheumatoid
arthritis and increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Health Risks of Heavy Drinking
Death from accident-particularly motor vehicle, cirrhosis, gastritis, dementia,
cancer, malnutrition and many others.
People lacking a personal and or strong family history of alcoholism can often
drink alcohol safely or even to the benefit of their health. Overweight people
trying to lose must understand that alcohol can impair their will and judgement
and increase their appetite so they must take special care not to drink before
eating while hungry.
Alcohol And Weight
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