Alcohol is a foreign substance, not essential to our body. Nevertheless, alcohol comes under nutrients because it provides energy: 1 gram of alcohol provides 7 kcal of energy.

After ingestion, alcohol is not digested, but is quickly absorbed in the stomach and small intestine. The absorption rate of alcohol depends on various factors:

  • Full stomach (1-3 hours) or empty stomach (15-30 minutes)
  • Composition of the meal: proteins slow down the absorption, fats slow down the emptying of the stomach
  • Alcohol content: the higher the percentage, the slower the emptying of the stomach
  • Purity: constituents in beer slow down the absorption
  • Speed of drinking
  • Fizzy drinks increase the rate of absorption

The alcohol concentration in your blood is determined by the amount of alcohol, the speed at which the alcohol is absorbed into your blood, the speed at which the alcohol is broken down by the liver and the amount of body fluid.

Influence and health effects

The influence of alcohol on our bodies and the health effects depend on:

  • The dose
  • The frequency
  • Person-related factors: obesity, gender, age, genetic susceptibility, nutrition, liver disease
  • The method of consumption: as a supplement to a meal, as a substitute


Too much alcohol results in the following effects:

  • Diuretic effect
  • Accelerated pulse and respiration
  • Causes hypoglycaemia (=low blood sugar)
  • Increased risk of various forms of cancer
  • Addiction
  • Financial, relational, social problems
  • Gastritis (= inflammation of the stomach), pancreatitis (= inflammation of the pancreas)
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity (= being overweight)


Moderate alcohol consumption may have the following advantages:

  • Increase in HDL (= good cholesterol) in the blood
  • Less blood clots
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk of dementia
  • Reduced risk of gallstones
  • Presence of polyphenols in some alcoholic beverages: protection against cardiovascular disease

Moderate use is max. one standard glass per day for women and max. two standard glasses per day for men.


In normal circumstances, the occasional glass can do no harm, but that is not why we should promote alcohol. Everyone should weigh up for themselves the advantages of moderate drinking against the potential disadvantages, depending on their personal risk profile.

Avoid drinking alcohol on a daily basis as this can lead to addiction.

- Translated from Dutch by Tamara Swalef -