April Is Alcohol Awareness Month

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by Lucy Brown Pugliese, MBA, RDN, CDN

Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to increase outreach to those with alcohol-related issues and to educate the public regarding the dangers of consuming excess alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 37.9 percent of students engage in binge drinking every year and 6,500 people aged 21 and under die from alcohol-related accidents, some of whom were not even drinking themselves. 

Alcohol supplies seven calories per gram, whereas fat is nine calories per gram, and protein and carbohydrates supply four calories per gram. Alcohol is not a nutrient and most alcohol is not broken down through digestion. It moves to body cells quickly through the stomach lining and wall of the small intestine right into the bloodstream. With no food in the stomach to slow it down, absorption can be even faster, going to every cell in the body depressing cell activity. 

Moderation is essential. Up to two drinks for men and one drink for women per day is considered moderate drinking. One drink equates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Alcohol may even have health benefits, such as lowering risk for heart disease. Healthy eating and an active lifestyle are key parts to the equation. Alcohol may stimulate appetite, which can be beneficial to some people with chronic diseases. However, if you have other health issues, problems may arise. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. On average, the body can only detoxify one standard-size drink per hour. The rest circulates in the blood until it can be broken down.

The alcohol awareness program has more recently evolved into a national movement, drawing more attention to the causes and effects of alcoholism as well as how to help families and communities deal with drinking problems. Alcohol use by people that do not know how to drink responsibly or are unaware of the risks contributes to higher rates of violence, sexual assault and suicide. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, you probably do and should call the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline at 800-622-2255.

Evidence suggests all types of alcoholic drinks may increase your risk of breast, colorectal and other forms of cancer. If you need assistance with healthy eating habits or need tips for a healthy lifestyle, contact a nutrition expert, a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist in your area by visiting EatRightLI.org and clicking on “Directory.”

Source: Lucy Brown Pugliese, MBA, RDN, CDN, the PR chairperson for Long Island Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, visit EatRightLI.org.

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