If you like the odd drink, you will be pleased to hear that I will not suggest you stop completely. Remember, Health Results is about happiness as much as it is about health - and if the occasional drink makes us happy, then we should go ahead and have one. If a couple of glasses of wine help us unwind after a demanding day at work, our overall health will probably benefit from having a drink rather than going out of our way to avoid it. But we are talking about only one or two glasses. We aren’t talking about drowning our sorrows; we’re talking about a little relaxation. If we feel the need to get drunk to be happy, then it’s essential to seek help in getting to the root cause of our unhappiness.

Red wine

Let’s take a look at units. While we don’t count calories when we aim to live better with Health Results, we do need to count our alcohol units. Firstly, where the British government got that ’21 units a week for men and 14 for women’ recommendation from is a complete mystery. Only recently I read they are now saying men should only drink 14 units. Plus, in many books I have read about our gut, the standard recommendation to keep our healthy bacteria in good working order is to suggest no more than one alcohol unit per day. But here is my take on drinking. We all know you can set fire to brandy, and if you didn’t, then you have never lit a Christmas pudding! If something can catch fire, it must be a really good fuel. Forget calorie counting, if something can easily ignite then the body must use it as a fuel. ‘So what?’, you might be asking. If we are eating and drinking too, it seems to make sense that the body will choose to burn the fuel that’s easiest to burn first, i.e. the alcohol, before it even thinks of burning up that meal we just ate.

Alcohol units

Virtually every time I step on my bathroom scales the morning after consuming more than two units of alcohol the night before, I find that my weight has increased. During almost five years of charting my daily weight, nearly every time where I have overindulged the night before, my weight is higher the next morning - even if I exercised and ate very well.

At the end of the day, alcohol is full of empty calories – a whopping seven of them per gram. But it’s not just the calories that are a problem; alcohol seems to disrupt our blood sugar control, makes our muscles less likely to take in the energy and instead deposits it all in our fat stores. The Drinkaware website sums it up very well, “While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol. So, our system wants to get rid of it, and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted”. One of the most significant sacrifices the body makes while dealing with too much alcohol is it fails to metabolise vitamin B. Among other things, this can lead to depression, lack of concentration and damage to several cognitive functions.

I heard Olympic diver Tom Daley being interviewed on the radio some time ago, and he said something along the lines of, a glass of wine has the same calories as a doughnut - and if he were going to have to choose one, he would rather have a doughnut! This made perfect sense to me. I had been eating very strictly that week, but the night before hearing Tom, I had three glasses of wine for no apparent reason. That’s the equivalent of three doughnuts, and on hearing what he had to say, I finally got the message.

The alcohol dilemma: undoubtedly, a small amount of alcohol is good for us, but there is little margin for error, as overconsumption is very unhealthy. Now, if we like the occasional drink, then all the research I have ever read points to our best bet being red wine. Tannins are a chemical found in the skin of the grape that helps protect it from bugs, and they are excellent antioxidants. In a sensible quantity, they may help prevent cellular damage that leads to cancer. Also, resveratrol found in red grapes further adds to its healing benefits. However, recent researchers have suggested that we would need to consume way too much wine for the benefit of resveratrol to be meaningful.

One final thought on alcohol, but this time it’s aimed just at men. Did you know when men consume lots of alcohol, the body converts the male sex hormone testosterone into the female hormone oestrogen? Yes, gents, the more we drink, the more feminine we become. Now that might explain a lot of the ‘man boobs’ that we see in pubs!


 pub beer