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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: Karolina Karabin, MD, PhD, molecular biologist, laboratory diagnostician, nutrition and lifestyle consultant

Alcohols are a whole group of chemical compounds with a characteristic structure containing a hydroxyl group. Colloquially, alcohol is simply called ethanol, which can be found in many beverages. Ethanol has a psychoactive effect, which is why it is eagerly consumed by many people around the world in the form of beer, wine, vodka, whiskey or gin. However, are there alcohols that are worse or better for our liver?

Any excess alcohol is harmful to the liver. It has been shown that excessive and chronic alcohol consumption can cause liver inflammation, alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis. Why? Because ethanol is a poison from the point of view of our body.

The liver is the metabolic center that processes and stores nutrients such as vitamins, fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Also, toxic substances are processed by the liver, such as alcohols. In the liver, ethanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase, which converts the alcohol into acetaldehyde. It is then converted to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase. Both acetaldehyde and acetate can then be safely excreted in the urine.

Hangover as a result of harmful effects of alcohol

A manifestation of the harmful effects of alcohol is the hangover we experience the next day after drinking too much of it. A hangover is a combination of mental and physical symptoms that result from the negative impact alcohol has on our body:

  • dehydration and electrolyte imbalance,
  • irritation of the stomach and intestines,
  • low blood glucose,
  • sleep and circadian rhythm disorders.

During the process of alcoholic fermentation or the aging process of alcoholic beverages, additional chemical substances, the so-called congeners. They include, among others :

  • methanol and other alcohols,
  • acetone,
  • acetaldehyde.

Congeners are responsible for the characteristic color, taste and aroma of various drinks, such as whiskey, brandy, cognac and tequila.

Scientists believe that congeners can contributeto the different effect of various alcoholic beverages on the body and thus the appearance of a hangover.

Some studies have found that drinks that contain more pure ethanol, such as vodka or gin, can cause less hangover than drinks that contain a lot of congeners, such as whiskey, brandy, grappa, and red wine.

One of the specific congeners associated with the hangover effect is methanol, and it seems that alcohols containing it are the most toxic to the liver. Methanol has a slightly different chemical structure than ethanol.

The same enzymes that metabolize ethanol, alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenases, also metabolize methanol. However, the products of methanol metabolism, such as formaldehyde and formic acid, are very toxic and in higher concentrations can cause blindness and even death.

You should especially watch out for the so-called home-made moonshine (moonshine) from an unproven source, as it was loud about cases of poisoning with such alcoholic beverages due to the high content of methanol.

Some studies have shown that the presence of methanol may contribute to the severity of a hangover. Although it should be emphasized that there is still no clear data on this subject.

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Is there the worst alcohol for our liver?

The fact is that no matter what alcoholic drink we drink, it is never indifferent to our liver. The amount and time in which we drank it are very important.

It is a myth that low-alcohol alcohols, such as beer, are less harmful than spirits, such as vodka. It is worth knowing that the ethanol content in individual beverages is approximately:

  • 12 g in 330 ml of beer,
  • 18 g in 500 ml of beer,
  • 17 g in 175 ml of wine,
  • 16 g in 50 ml of vodka.

If we already have to drink high-percentage alcohol, a drink with freshly squeezed juice may be a good solution. It will contain antioxidants and vitamins that can help the liver partially metabolize ethanol. Can you drink alcohol on a diet? The answer will be simple - alcohol abuse in the diet can be harmful.

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