Want to be instantly unpopular? Announce that you don’t drink at a party and the crowd drift away from you. With a drink in your hand, you are the life of the party. Otherwise, you are just an insufferable bore. Life is tough for a teetotaller in a world that celebrates boozing. But the laundry list of benefits is many. For starters, you could be saving yourself from premature ageing. So if you have decided to stay off alcohol this year, good call!
What is alcohol to begin with?
Alcohol or ethanol is a drug. It’s a small, water-soluble molecule that is absorbed rapidly from the small intestine and distributed quite swiftly throughout the body.
Alcohol is a mild sedative in small doses, inducing happiness and reducing inhibitions. But in large doses, it can become a fatal neurotoxin, leading to coma or death.
When you drink an alcoholic beverage, it swiftly moves through the blood to all parts of the body. Pregnant women are advised against drinking because alcohol can enter the fetus through blood.
Chronic drinking causes a lot of serious health problems, from hypertension to cirrhosis to cancer. Not to mention, worsening of mental health problems.
But does alcohol cause ageing?
Nutritionist and wellness coach Priyanka Bagai answers in the affirmative. “Alcohol affects our overall health. We may not see these effects immediately. But over time, the signs start showing in our wrinkly skin, dropping eyes and puffy face,” she says.
Alcohol damages your skin’s antioxidant defence system by reducing the amount of dermal carotenoids, which fights free radicals. This causes volume loss around the eyes, mid-face and lips, making you look older than you really are.
Alcohol can also cause dilation of blood vessels, leading to puffiness in the face and around the eyes. A bloated face gives the impression of increased age.
“It robs the body of all its essential nutrients. The deficiency starts showing on us physically, and it makes us look older than our actual age,” says Priyanka.
Then there’s alcohol-induced dehydration that can further add to your skin’s woes, according to nutritionist Ashuta Gundecha. “Alcohol can dehydrate your skin causing it to wrinkle and age,” she adds. That’s because ethanol is a diuretic, a substance that expels water rapidly from the body.
To understand how your body ages, you should know how telomeres work. Telomeres are protective caps at the ends of your DNA strands that prevent the chromosomes from unraveling. Much like the plastic tips of shoelaces. The longer the telomere, the younger your body is.
But factors like long-term stress and chronic drinking cause the telomeres to shrivel and shorten. A 2019 study in the journal Psychopharmacology revealed that chronic alcohol exposure hastens aging by reducing telomere length.
So are all forms of alcohol bad?
Red wine can’t be that bad right? What about beer? Well, here’s a dampener. No form of alcohol is safe.
“All forms of alcohol are equally guilty of aging when consumed in excess. Though red wine is good for heart, its overconsumption can increase heartbeats and blood pressure,” points out Ashuta.
Priyanka agrees: “Alcohol is alcohol. From beer to whiskey, all have similar side effects and can be detrimental to health. They have no nutritional value and are only adding empty calories to the diet.”
But is moderation good?
Moderation is indeed the key. Residents of some of the blue zone regions — places where people have exceptionally long lifespan — are known to consume alcohol in small amounts.
But before you make a dash for the minibar, here’s what you should know.
“According to guidelines, it is said that consuming a glass of wine or a pint of beer. However, this is a generic rule and everyone has a different threshold to withstand alcohol. body threshold to Therefore I would suggest reducing alcohol intake as much as possible for good,” says Priyanka.
Ashuta recommends two simple tips to cut down on drinking: “One, watch for peer pressure. Stay away from people who encourage you to drink. And two, maintain a drinking diary to keep a record of your drinks. This will help you stay aware and focused on your plan.”