What About Spirits – Do They Get a Good Bill of Health?


  Alcohol: Spirits OK so red wine gets a relatively good bill of health, but what about spirits? Vodka, rum, gin and all the rest are zero carb drinks (assuming you do not add them to high caloric sugar heavy drink mixes, which can be deadly). What about them?Here’s how it works: Think of alcohol as a kind of presidential motorcade speeding through the streets of a big city. All the other cars pull over to the side to let it through, and traffic can’t continue moving till the “all clear” signal has been given. Similarly, the body can’t store alcohol, so it has to use it up first. All the other metabolic processes- i.e. the metabolizing of fat and glucose- have to be put on hold while the body gets rid of the alcohol. Once the “motorcade” has left the street, things can proceed normally, but during that time fat- like traffic- isn’t going anywhere.Dr. Mary Vernon, author of the “Atkins Diabetes Revolution” explains, “Alcohol turns off fat burning at the cellular level”. And according to Dr. Gil Wilshire, alcohol- even though it doesn’t have many carbs of its own- acts as a kind of “super carb” in the body. “It has almost twice the calories of carbs and it can depress growth hormone production”, he says.What effect does alcohol have on blood sugar and insulin? Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk for diabetes. The mechanism is thought to be an increase in insulin sensitivity, something which is very positive indeed.Alcohol has no direct effect on blood sugar, but it can lower blood sugar indirectly by temporarily paralyzing the liver and preventing it from converting protein to sugar. This alcohol induced hypoglycemia is a real issue for diabetics, and can impact non-diabetics as well, especially if you drink on an empty stomach.And it’s a rare drinker who hasn’t had the experience of feeling ravenous (a frequent accompaniment to low blood sugar) after a couple of drink s at a cocktail party, especially if they have not eaten first. Ravenous feelings coupled with a lessening of inhibitions and an abundance of junky, breaded cocktail food is not exactly an ideal situation for someone concerned with maintaining (or losing) weight. And if you drink while eating lots of carbs, your blood sugar may stay elevated longer as the body first gets rid of all that alcohol.So what’s the best advice for someone wanting to enjoy alcohol – moderation is the answer. Drinking with food lowers the possibility of hypoglycemia for most people. Sticking with red wine (for the health benefits) and unmixed drinks is also a good idea. “In small amounts, alcohol is relatively benign”, says Dr. Bernstein. “But if you’re the type who can’t limit drinking, it’s best to avoid it entirely”.

Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons, author of “The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program” points out, there is more than an accidental connection between sugar addiction and alcoholism. Some people just can’t manage moderation when it comes to alcohol (or carbs, or sugar). If this is you, forget about the health benefits- they don’t apply to you.

By Dr. Jonny Bowden

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