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
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.
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:
Table retrieved from FARE factsheet: http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FS-YoungWomenAlcoholObesity-HR.pdf 28
Did you know?
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.
Call the Alcohol and Drug Support Line on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024 toll free for country callers.
For emergencies call the 000 emergency line.