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Alcohol and Nutrition

How your body breaks down alcohol

Unlike food, alcohol is not digested it is absorbed directly in the blood stream so that it can be eliminated from the body as fast as possible. 1

Alcohol begins its journey through the digestive system in the mouth, then it travels down the oesophagus to the stomach, where some of the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.1The stomach starts the breakdown of alcohol with an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. 7The rest of the alcohol travels to the small intestine where the remainder gets absorbed. On an empty stomach it takes around 30 minutes for the alcohol in one standard drink to enter the bloodstream and 60 minutes on a full stomach.1The liver is responsible for breaking down the alcohol and removing it from the bloodstream.1Food can assist in slowing down the absorption of alcohol. 2

Alcohols impact on the absorption of nutrients

The small intestine is the organ in which nutrients are mostly absorbed into the bloodstream.4 Alcohol can interfere with the absorption of vitamins such as A, B1, B12, C, D, E and folic acid, which can see them eliminated as waste rather than being used. 5

Alcohol can reduce inhibitions and self-restraint and therefore drinkers tend to make poor nutritional decisions while drinking as well as post-drinking, increasing the desire for unhealthy foods such as high fat, high salt, high calorie or take-away. 6 It is important to recognise the empty calories (no nutritional benefit) that are in alcoholic drinks.

Alcohol and calories

Food has nutrients that the body uses for the growth, maintenance and repair of tissues. This includes, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and some minerals. 8 The body uses carbohydrates, protein and fats which are energy-yielding nutrients to fuel all its activities. Another substance that contributes to energy is alcohol. However, alcohol is not considered a nutrient because it can interfere with the body’s growth, maintenance and repair. 8 The amount of energy delivered by alcohol content alone is 29 kJ or 7 calories per gram.

Alcohol can increase calorie intake in the following ways:

  • Alcohol content alone provides calories.
  • The mixers selected to drink with the alcohol provide calories e.g. soft drinks.
  • The dietary choices that are made when consuming alcohol.

    The table below indicates on average how many calories each type of alcohol contains and the exercise that is needed to burn off alcohol.

Beverage   Number of standard drinks Number of kilojoules/calories Exercise needed to burn-off
100ml wine (13% alcohol) 1 315kJ / 75 calories 1km jog
375mL stubbie or can of full-strength beer (4.8% alcohol) 1.4 570 kJ/136 calories 2km jog
375mL stubbie or can of light beer (2.7% alcohol) .08 395kJ/94 calories 1.5km jog
30mL nip of spirits 1 275kJ/66 calories 1km jog
330mL read-to-drink premixes (5% alcohol) e.g. Vodka Cruisers 1.2 740kJ/177 calories 2.5km jog

Table retrieved from FARE factsheet: http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FS-YoungWomenAlcoholObesity-HR.pdf 28

 

Did you know?

  • 1 can of rum and cola 440mL is equal to 1254kJ/300 calories and is equal to approx. 1 McDonalds cheeseburger.9
  • 330mL ready to drink pre-mixer (e.g vodka cruisers) is equal to 740kJ/177 calories. 2.4 km jog is needed to burn off the calories and having one drink is equal to approx. 1 slice of pepperoni pizza.10
  • 375mL stubbie or can of full-strength beer is equal to 570kJ/136 calories. 2 km jog is needed to burn off the calories and having two cans (750mL) is equal to approx. 6 chicken nuggets from McDonalds.11
  • Drinking 100mL of wine is equal to 315kJ or 75 calories. 1 km jog is needed to burn off the calories and having two glasses of wine (300mL) is equal to approx 2 chocolate paddle pops12

 

 

 
References

1 V Youngerman, B., Dingwell, H., Golden, R. N., Peterson, F. L., & Ebook Library. (2010). The truth about alcohol (2nd;2; ed.). New York: Facts On File.

2Dasgupta, A., & Ebook Library. (2011). The science of drinking: How alcohol affects your body and mind. Lanham;Blue Ridge Summit;: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Incorporated. Pg23

3 Bode, C., & Bode, J. C. (1997). Alcohol's role in gastrointestinal tract disorders. Alcohol Health and Research World, 21(1), 76.

4Bode, C., & Bode, J. C. (1997). Alcohol's role in gastrointestinal tract disorders. Alcohol Health and Research World, 21(1), 76.

5 Whitney, E., & Ebook Library. (2013). Understanding nutrition (2;2nd; ed.). Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia. Pg 225.

6Piazza-Gardner, A. K., & Barry, A. E. (2014). A qualitative investigation of the relationship between consumption, physical activity, eating disorders, and weight consciousness.American Journal of Health Education, 45(3), 174-182. doi:10.1080/19325037.2014.901112

7Whitney, E., & Ebook Library. (2013). Understanding nutrition (2;2nd; ed.). Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.

8Whitney, E., & Ebook Library. (2013). Understanding nutrition (2;2nd; ed.). Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.

9 http://www.calorieking.com.au/foods/calories-in-burgers-sandwiches-cheeseburger-burger_fY2lkPTQxMzg5JmJpZD00NDYmZmlkPTgyODkmZWlkPTIzNDg0MTM3NCZwb3M9MSZwYXI9JmtleT1jaGVlc2VidXJnZXI.html

10 http://www.calorieking.com.au/foods/calories-in-pizza-medium-pepperoni-lovers-perfecto-base_fY2lkPTUwMjg3JmJpZD01NjUmZmlkPTIwNjYyOSZlaWQ9MjM0ODQwOTAxJnBvcz02JnBhcj0ma2V5PXBpenph.html

11http://www.calorieking.com.au/foods/food.php?amount=2&unit=219064&category_id=38245&brand_id=446&food_id=9750&partner=.

12http://www.calorieking.com.au/foods/calories-in-ice-cream-bars-paddle-pop-chocolate_fY2lkPTQ0MTMxJmJpZD02ODQmZmlkPTU1NDEmZWlkPTIzNDgzOTk0NiZwb3M9MiZwYXI9JmtleT1wYWRkbGUgcG9wcw.html.