Some chemicals are so linked to our life or to our civilization that we no longer refer to them as… chemical substances. This is the case for today’s topic. The substance is an alcohol, ethanol. It’s part of a large family, which includes members such as methanol (which is poisonous) or ethylene glycol used as antifreeze. Ethanol is the only family member that has been produced for human consumption since the dawn of civilization – that is why it is known simply as… alcohol.
The chemistry of alcohol in our body – which is the same as saying “the effects of alcohol on our body” – is very well known. However, there are still many myths linked with alcohol, for example, the myth that alcohol warms you up. In fact, alcohol is a peripheral vasodilator, that is, it increases blood flow to the periphery of the body: hands, feet, face, and skin in general. When exposed to cold, the body protects itself by diverting blood away from these peripheral areas, thus keeping it warm inside the body, close to vital organs like the heart. Alcohol contradicts this security measure of our bodies, bringing warm blood to our extremities – which results in a warm feeling, but can also result in death from hypothermia!
But alcohol is a good example of the phrase “you can have too much of a good thing”. Moderate consumption of alcohol is not considered harmful. There are even studies that suggest alcohol consumed in small amounts has positive effects on the cardiovascular system. On the other hand, excessive ingestion is clearly associated with problems that include, among others, hypertension, premature dementia, liver failure and problems with sexual performance. The choice is yours…
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