Alcohol is well known for not being particularly good for you.. and most people understand that alcohol causes liver damage. But what is the science behind this? How does alcohol affect the liver? Is the damage permanent?
In this article, we’re going to take a look at different types of alcohol such as wine, beer cider, and particularly spirits (rum, gin. vodka tequila , etc..) to find out which of these is best for your liver.
Table of Contents
What is alcohol and how is it digested in our bodies?
Ethyl alcohol, commonly known as ethanol, is a psychoactive component present in beer, wine, and spirits. The fermentation of yeast, carbohydrates, and starches creates alcohol. When yeast eats sugar, it excrets alcohol. Now that I’ve ruined that for you, let’s break down how it is absorbed into the body.
When humans consume alcohol, it is broken down by enzymes in the liver. Understanding how quickly alcohol is metabolized is important in determining its effects. The stomach and intestines empty, passing blood into the liver. The function of the liver is to take those contents and transform the blood from the stomach and intestines into a form that can be utilized by other body systems and is nontoxic.
The liver can break down one ounce of alcohol, or one ordinary drink, in an hour, on average. If you consume more than this, your body becomes saturated and the extra booze will accumulate in your blood and body tissues until it can be removed. This is why chugging shots or engaging in drinking games might result in blood alcohol levels that remain in your system for many hours.
How does alcohol affect us?
Alcohol impairs motor coordination, reaction time, and intellectual performance by slowing down the central nervous system. At high dosages, the respiratory system may come to a halt, resulting in coma or death. The harm of alcohol is only permanent if it is excessively consumed in a short time, resulting in poisoning and, potentially, death, with an already sick or weakened liver or when taken continuously for lengthy periods, as our bodies and livers are designed to break down the chemical compound.
It’s important to remember that alcohol is a toxin that can damage your liver no matter what type you drink. Now, that being said, there are some alcoholic drinks that are worse for your liver than others. Drinks that are high in sugar, for example, can lead to fat buildups and fatty liver disease. And some types of sugar, like high fructose corn syrup, are particularly harmful. Another health deciding factor is the overall calorie content. So if you’re concerned about your liver, it’s best to avoid sugary alcoholic drinks. Instead, opt for drinks that are lower in sugar and alcohol. These include wine and light beer. Or better yet, skip the alcohol altogether and stick to water or unsweetened tea. Your liver will thank you for it.
What alcohols are the healthiest?
While it should be obvious that most people aren’t drinking alcohol to improve their health, there are ways to consume that will minimize the negative effects. Someone who drinks in moderation and makes good judgments may discover that drinking is not nearly as bad for them as they had anticipated. Check out this list of the most healthy alcoholic beverages to help you to drink consciously.
1. Red wine
Having a weekly glass of red wine for its antioxidants is fine, and some medical professionals actually recommend it. Wine contains polyphenols, which are found in the skins of grapes. The more antioxidants a grape has, the darker it is. Because red wine uses darker grapes and is exposed to greater contact with the actual grape skins, it has more antioxidant capacity than white wine. Antioxidants are instrumental in preventing heart disease, amongst a slew of other diseases and health-related complications.
2. Light Beer & Low Carb Beers
Light beer is another great option if you want a healthier drinking option. One light beer, which has about 100 calories per 12 ounces and has roughly the same amount of calories as an apple, will not endanger your health or fitness objectives when consumed in moderation.
3. Tequila and Mezcal
While tequila has no cited health benefits, it is a relatively healthy beverage since it is produced from agave and has a natural flavor. Tequila is enjoyable neat or on the rocks and can help save money by eliminating needless high-calorie, high-sugar mixers. Just make sure to avoid commercially produced margarita mixes that include dangerous chemicals and sugars.
*Another alcoholic beverage that has broken onto the beer and wine scene the past couple of years, hard kombucha, is another to consider on this list as kombucha contains extremely healthy probiotics that are proven to increase positive gut bacteria.
What are the most important factors to consider?
- As hinted at previously, one of the unhealthiest aspects of drinking comes via the mixers you choose for your drink, which are much more detrimental to your health than the liquor itself. Consider what kind of alcohol you enjoy the most on its own, and which one you can drink the most with little assistance from the sweetness of soda or sugary juices.
- A standard drink in the United States is any beverage containing 0.6 oz or 14 grams of pure alcohol. This is especially important when considering wine, as the alcohol content of different varieties varies dramatically. 12 fl oz of 5% beer, a small can, has the same amount of alcohol as 1.5 fl oz of 40% vodka, a normal shot glass, therefore drinking five beers and five shots of vodka puts the same level of alcohol-related stress despite the volume of fluid from five cans of beer being a lot more than five shots.
- There is one more thing to consider when deciding which alcohol is best for the liver, and that is the fat content. You should keep in mind fatty liver disease, as it is a common cause of inflammation and mortality in heavy drinkers. One of the most prevalent causes of liver disease is fatty liver. That’s why the amount of calories your beverage contains is just as essential as its sugar content. Carbohydrates, which are stored in your liver as fat when consumed in cocktails and carbonated mixes, can be detrimental to your health.
What about calories? Which alcohol has the most calories?
|Beer (light)||12 oz (355 ml)||103|
|Beer (regular)||12 oz (355 ml)||153|
|Beer (higher alcohol, craft beers)||12 oz (355 ml)||170 to 350|
|Gin (80 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||97|
|Gin (94 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||116|
|Rum (80 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||97|
|Rum (94 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||116|
|Vodka (80 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||97|
|Vodka (94 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||116|
|Whiskey (80 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||97|
|Whiskey (94 proof)||1.5 oz (45 ml)||116|
|Coffee liqueur||1.5 oz (45 ml)||160|
|Coffee liqueur with cream||1.5 oz (45 ml)||154|
|Crème de menthe||1.5 oz (45 ml)||186|
|Bloody Mary||4.6 oz (136 ml)||120|
|Chocolate martini||2.5 oz (74 ml)||418|
|Cosmopolitan||2.75 oz (81 ml)||146|
|Daiquiri||2.7 oz (80 ml)||137|
|Highball||8 oz (235 ml)||110|
|Hot buttered rum||8 oz (235 ml)||292|
|Mai Tai||4.9 oz (145 ml)||306|
|Margarita||4 oz (120 ml)||168|
|Mimosa||4 oz (120 ml)||75|
|Mint Julep||4.5 oz (135 ml)||165|
|Mojito||6 oz (177 ml)||143|
|Pina colada||6.8 oz (200 ml)||526|
|Rum and Coke||8 oz (235 ml)||185|
|Rum and Diet Coke||8 oz (235 ml)||100|
|Tequila sunrise||6.8 oz (200 ml)||232|
|Vodka and tonic||7 oz (207 ml)||189|
|Whiskey sour||3 oz (89 ml)||125|
|White Russian||8 oz (235 ml)||568|
|White table wine||5 oz (145 ml)||128|
|Gewurztraminer||5 oz (145 ml)||128|
|Muscat||5 oz (145 ml)||129|
|Riesling||5 oz (145 ml)||129|
|Chenin Blanc||5 oz (145 ml)||129|
|Chardonnay||5 oz (145 ml)||128|
|Sauvignon Blanc||5 oz (145 ml)||128|
|Fume Blanc||5 oz (145 ml)||128|
|Pinot Grigio||5 oz (145 ml)||128|
|Dry dessert wine||3.5 oz (90 ml)||157|
|Red table wine||5 oz (145 ml)||125|
|Petite Sirah||5 oz (145 ml)||125|
|Merlot||5 oz (145 ml)||122|
|Cabernet Sauvignon||5 oz (145 ml)||122|
|Red Zinfandel||5 oz (145 ml)||129|
|Burgundy||5 oz (145 ml)||122|
|Pinot Noir||5 oz (145 ml)||121|
|Claret||5 oz (145 ml)||122|
|Syrah||5 oz (145 ml)||122|
|Red dessert wine||3.5 oz (90 ml)||165|
*This table was sourced directly from MedlinePlus.gov – MedlinePlus brings together authoritative health information from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations.
Bring us home.
In conclusion, when deciding which alcoholic beverage is best for the liver, the quick answer is that none of them are good for your liver. It doesn’t matter if you drink low-alcohol beer or grain alcohol, the health risks are still there. With that being said, the alcohol’s strength and volume consumed are the most important factors when selecting which alcohol is best for your liver. It will harm your liver if you drink a lot of any type of alcoholic beverage, even weak ones. However, if you lead an active and healthy lifestyle, there are actual ways in which alcohol can be beneficial to you.