What does alcohol do to our bodies – and how much is too much?

Science and Health

As the world prepares to ring in the new year, one thing is for sure: people will be drinking for New Year’s Eve. Whether you are preparing to drink or not, it is best to have all of the correct information in mind regarding the health and safety precautions necessary.

Alcohol consumption is common, with or without a holiday to accompany it. Throughout Europe, people are consuming more than ever per person – an average of 10.9 liters annually, compared to the global average of 6.2 liters. At least 30% of men and 10% of women are “binge” drinking at least once a month.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming at least 4 drinks in two hours, and is a common behavior at parties – especially around New Year’s Eve.

On both sides of the coin, the question of whether or not it is okay to consume alcohol is hard to answer. There are certainly no clear rules. The one thing we know for sure is that binge drinking should be avoided at all costs and is an extremely unhealthy and dangerous behavior. Moderation is key, especially on a night-to-night basis. 

Experts suggest that a great way to combat excess drinking is to stick to a single type of beverage, rather than many different kinds. Additionally, it is stressed to eat alongside drinking, to prevent rapid and dangerous absorption of alcohol into one’s bloodstream.

Something important to note: alcohol is ultimately a poison to organs like the liver and has the potential to cause serious – if not fatal – illnesses.

Annual Chacha Festival in Telavi (credit: REUTERS)

What happens to our bodies when we drink?

Alcohol consumption comes with major risks, namely, liver damage. This is caused by inflammation of the liver that accumulates in fatty cells in the liver. This inflammation can cause scarring of the liver, to the point of cirrhosis of the liver (permanent and typically fatal scarring), liver failure, and even liver cancer.

There is no clear connection between the amount of alcohol consumed and the damage caused; some people are more sensitive than others. Other key factors to keep in mind include health conditions like being overweight or having diabetes can add to alcohol’s damage to the liver. Additionally, in general, women are more sensitive to alcohol than men.

Regularly consuming alcohol can potentially lead to chronic liver disease, but binge drinking provides its own dangers. Alcohol poisoning is a major risk and has some major signs to keep an eye out for. 

Some other things to keep in mind before drinking:

The risks associated with binge drinking are:

  1. General dysfunction including at work, violations of driving laws, violence and more.
  2. Mood disorders, with a tendency to depression and anxiety.
  3. Cognitive dare disorders are caused by the rapid penetration of alcohol into the bloodstream, with considerable difficulty in retrieving memories.
  4. Excess risk of becoming addicted to alcohol and becoming a real alcoholic (consumption of 30-40 grams of alcohol per day regularly).

Medical professionals only have one suggestion: “Please, don’t overdo it!”

Dr. Yoram Menachem is an expert in internal medicine and a consultant for liver diseases, in the southern district – of Maccabi Health Services.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.