WHAT IS ALCOHOL?

Alcohol is created when fruits, vegetables or grains are fermented – that is, when yeast or bacteria cause the sugars in the original food product to ferment and change chemically into alcohol.

The chemical name for the alcohol in alcoholic beverages is ethanol. Ethanol is a colourless liquid that is lighter than water - one millilitre weighs around 0.8 grams. The amount of alcohol present in different fermented products varies greatly. The percentage of alcohol in a typical serving of beer is around 5%; for wine and spirits these percentages are approximately 12% and 35% respectively.

Alcoholic beverages also contain energy (calories) from alcohol (30 kilojoules per gram). The nutritional value of most alcoholic beverages is very low, because they contain little protein, fat or other nutrients. Some beverages however, such as beer, do contain sugars and carbohydrates as well as some B-vitamins, micronutrients and minerals.

What is a safe amount of alcohol to drink?

As a global brewer, we believe that if you are going to drink beer, always drink in moderation at the right time, in the right place and for the right reasons. There are also situations when you should not drink alcohol, even though government legislation or guidelines may permit limited consumption.

Many individual Governments and health authorities give daily or weekly guidelines on the number of alcohol units that can be consumed. In some of our markets, we include these guidelines on our product labels.
There are clear health and behavioural risks associated with consuming too much alcohol either over time or on single occasions.

Cultural attitudes, religious beliefs and legislation can all influence drinking behaviour, but ultimately people decide for themselves whether to drink or not and how much to drink.
If people consume alcohol inappropriately, they become a potential danger to themselves and others.

WHEN SHOULD I NOT DRINK ALCOHOL?

There are certain situations when it is better not to drink at all, even though government legislation or guidelines may permit limited consumption.

These are when you are:
  • Driving a vehicle or intending to drive a vehicle
  • At work, especially when work involves the use of complex or hazardous materials or machinery or serious concentration
  • Pregnant or trying to conceive
  • Below the legal drinking or purchase age
  • Unable to control the amount that you drink
  • Medically advised
As a global brewer, we believe that if you are going to drink beer, always drink in moderation at the right time, in the right place and for the right reasons.
If people consume alcohol inappropriately, they become a potential danger to themselves and others.

HOW CAN ALCOHOL AFFECT ME?

Alcohol affects everyone differently and even one or two drinks can affect you.

Alcohol accelerates your pulse rate and breathing. It dehydrates your body, reinforcing the need to urinate.

Alcohol reduces your ability to concentrate, co-ordinate your movements or even see properly. Even after drinking the smallest amount of alcohol you are more likely to make mistakes and errors of judgment.

Your ability to safely drive a car or any other vehicle may actually be impaired at blood alcohol levels well below the legal limit. Safe driving requires good vision, sound judgment and fast reaction times. Alcohol impairs all three. If you drink and drive you risk killing or injuring yourself and others. The safest approach for those who intend to drive is not to drink.

Persistent heavy drinking can cause a number of social, psychological and medical problems, including alcohol dependence.

WHY DO DIFFERENT PEOPLE 'BURN' ALCOHOL AT DIFFERENT RATES?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is determined by the rate at which alcohol is absorbed from the intestines into the blood and the rate at which alcohol is broken down by the liver.

The BAC is affected by various other factors. For example, combining alcohol consumption with a meal helps to lower BAC levels. Your blood alcohol level depends on how many drinks you have consumed; the speed at which you are drinking, your weight and your gender - not how often you indulge.

The same alcohol consumption leads to lower BAC levels in men than in women. Men have a higher average weight and a relatively higher percentage of body fluid. Women metabolise alcohol more slowly than men, meaning that it remains in their system longer.

Although the speed of the breakdown can vary considerably between individuals, on average, the liver can break down around eight grams of alcohol per hour.

DOES ALCOHOL AFFECT WOMEN DIFFERENTLY TO MEN?

The simple answer is yes. The same alcohol consumption leads to lower BAC levels in men than in women. Men have a higher average weight and a relatively higher percentage of body fluid.

Women metabolise alcohol slower than men, meaning that it remains in their system longer.

Consequently, the same amount of alcohol will have a greater physical impact on a woman than on a man, even when differences in body weight are taken into account.

IS IT SAFE TO DRINK WHEN PREGNANT?

For pregnant women or those wanting to conceive it is safer not to drink alcohol.

When pregnant women drink, alcohol is not only carried to all their organs and tissues, but also reaches the placenta and crosses through the membrane separating mother and child blood systems. So when a mother to be drinks, so does her baby.

A number of behavioural, developmental and physical disorders have been associated with the use of alcohol during pregnancy. The most well-defined of these is Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, associated with chronic alcohol use by pregnant women. There is insufficient good evidence to establish which level of alcohol use is safe during pregnancy. The safest approach is not to drink alcohol.

WHY IS IT BETTER TO DRINK WITH A FULL STOMACH?

A full stomach slows down the passage of alcohol into the large intestine and may modify its absorption. If you drink after eating, the effects of alcohol will take longer to appear and blood alcohol concentrations will not rise as quickly as when you drink on an empty stomach.

DOES DRINKING COFFEE HELP MAKE YOU SOBER?

Black coffee, cold showers or fresh air will do nothing to counteract the physical effects of alcohol. They may make you feel better, but only time can remove alcohol from your bloodstream. There are no short cuts.

WHY IS IT BAD FOR THOSE UNDERAGE TO DRINK?

Those underage lack experience with drinking and do not know their own limits. Drinking heavily during puberty can effect brain development, the liver and the hormonal system. Different countries define underage drinking in different ways, mainly depending on the legal purchasing age. People under the legal purchasing and/or drinking age should not purchase or consume alcohol.

WHAT IS A HANGOVER?

A night drinking excessively almost invariably turns into an uncomfortable morning after. Alcohol breakdown in the body turns it into substances that have an unpleasant effect. Alcohol irritates the human body in many different ways, but perhaps most importantly suppresses activity of the hormone that inhibits the secretion of urine. As a result you need the toilet more often when you drink. You then lose fluids, and become dehydrated. No surprise then that you wake up in the morning feeling bad: probably with a headache, possibly also feeling nauseous, shaky and certainly with a dry mouth and raging thirst.

WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL HEALTH EFFECTS OF DRINKING ALCOHOL?

Acute health affects

The acetate from alcohol produced mainly in the liver causes depression in the central nervous system.

This has an effect on a person’s behaviour such as lack of inhibition, decreased problem solving capacity, altered emotional functioning, depression or agitation. It has effects on memory and motor functions such as decreased response time. In increasing amounts, this may lead to accidents or contribute to poor decision-making, violence or unwanted pregnancy. Severe acute alcohol intoxication from extreme excessive drinking can result in convulsions, coma or death.

Long term health affects

In general, for adults there is a J shaped association between alcohol consumption and mortality. This means that consumers of low to moderate quantities of alcohol have lower death risk than people who do not drink at all, as well as a lower risk than consumers of high quantities of alcohol.

Chronic alcohol abuse can cause liver diseases varying from mild disorders such as steatosis to severe life threatening diseases such as cirrhosis.

The cardiovascular system is one of the major organ systems influenced by alcohol consumption. Population based studies show conclusively that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages has a protective effect. This effect is found in men and women and bears no relation to the type of alcoholic beverage. Consumption of higher quantities of alcohol leads to for instance high blood pressure and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moderate alcohol consumption is also reported to protect against diabetes and dementia. There is a relationship between alcohol and certain types of cancer. For instance a higher risk of breast cancer and oesphageal cancer is correlated with drinking alcohol and the risks increase with increased consumption.

WHAT IS ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE?

Alcohol dependence is a syndrome characterized by the physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. This means that alcohol dependents start to suffer physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Their alcohol consumption interferes with their normal everyday life, at work as well as at home. Those who experience problems controlling their drinking to within moderate levels should seek medical advice and should not drink at all.