New research points to an inverse relationship between alcohol intake and levels of omega-3 — an essential fat that benefits the heart, brain, joints, skin — and mood.Unfortunately, knocking back a few too many could mean lower levels of this important nutrient.
The reasons are twofold.First, binge drinkers are less likely to consume the top sources of omega-3 (fish like salmon, sardines and black cod, as well as walnuts and flaxseed).The NIH study found that men who binge drink two or more times per week experienced a 27% reduction in omega-3 fatty acid intake.The second factor: When the ethanol in alcohol is metabolized by the body it generates free radicals which degrade fatty acids, like omega-3, thus lowering the body’s overall stores.
While this is not surprising — alcohol intake also depletes levels of other nutrients, like folate and B6 — it is alarming, particularly given new Harvard research attributing 96,000 U.S.deaths per year to omega-3 deficiency. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, omega-3 has been found to improve test scores, alleviate allergy symptoms, and even help you fight fat. University of Georgia researchers found that omega-3 fatty acids prevented the development of fat cells in laboratory tissue cultures.
By contrast, binge drinking leads to bigger waistlines — particularly when it comes to beer. Other dangers of excessive alcohol intake — increased risk of melanoma, breast cancer, stroke and liver disease as well as permanently impaired memory and learning capacity. Women suffer faster progression of dependence and brain shrinkage with excessive drinking, and everyone’s ability to metabolize ethanol declines with age. The damage adds up: According to a study in The Lancet, alcohol accounts for 1 in 25 deaths worldwide — which equates to 100,000 U.S.deaths each year.
Bonus: Bananas can combat hangover symptoms.
Published August 1, 2009