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Control Alcohol During Holidays
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Partygoers who tend to overindulge in the holiday spirits may need to learn the fine art of dawdling to decrease the effect of alcohol on their system.
Dawdling is characterized by mixing with other guests and friends, and maybe having a dance before heading to the bar at holiday festivities.
"If you do pick up an alcoholic drink, pick up something to eat too. The food slows the alcohol absorption into the blood stream. It is always a good idea to eat and rest before a party so that the body is physically prepared to metabolize alcohol. If you drink alcohol, it is wise to drink in moderation," said Barbara McLaurin, nutrition education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Moderation -- one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men -- is based on the gender differences in metabolism and body weight.
"It takes at least one hour for the body to metabolize one drink. Drinks are measured by the amount of pure alcohol in them. A 12-ounce can of beer, one shot and one six-ounce glass of wine all contain one-half ounce of pure alcohol," McLaurin said.
Even drinking in moderation increases the risk of a car crash if an individual gets behind the wheel. After only one drink, there are observable effects -- bad driving habits are more pronounced according to the National Safety Council. Visual acuity, coordination and judgement are also limited after one drink.
Alcohol consumed above a moderate level can raise the risk of motor vehicle crashes, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide and certain types of cancer.
"Even one drink a day raises the risk of breast cancer, which can affect both men and women," McLaurin said.
Alcohol also lacks any nutritional value. Heavy drinkers are at risk for alcohol calories to become substitute calories for those found in nutritious foods.
"Alcohol adds calories without the benefit of vitamins and minerals. It does not aid in avoiding winter holiday season weight gain," McLaurin said.
"It is a myth that alcohol wards off a cold or warms up the body in cold weather. Actually, it does the opposite. It impedes the immune system in fighting the cold, and makes the body cooler. Alcohol increases the heat loss from the body," McLaurin said.
Some people should refrain from drinking any alcohol. These people include pregnant mothers or women who may become pregnant, and individuals who plan to drive or operate any machinery or vehicle that requires coordination or skill. Also, people taking over-the-counter drugs or prescription medication should steer clear. The medicine can react with alcohol and cause adverse effects. Children and people of any age who cannot restrict their alcohol intake are in danger even if drinking in moderation.
Half of the traffic fatalities during Christmas and New Year's last year were alcohol related.