Triglycerides and Alcohol

If you are dealing with high triglycerides, your doctor may have told you to stop drinking because triglycerides and alcohol don’t mix. If fact, even just one drink, whether it is wine, beer, hard liquor or even red wine, can increase the amount of triglycerides in your blood.  Just what is it about alcohol and triglycerides?

Basically, alcohol is made by fermenting a combination of yeast, sugar and starches. It is found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is high in sugar and calories. The sugar in the alcohol raises your triglyceride level. Another reason triglycerides and alcohol don’t play well together is in the way your body processes alcohol.

How Alcohol Is Metabolized

Alcohol is not digested by your body in the same way that food is digested. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver instead. And it is metabolized very quickly (but perhaps not as quickly as you drink it).

When you drink alcohol, any kind, about 20% of it gets absorbed directly through the stomach walls. It can reach the brain within a minute. Another 10% of the alcohol is eliminated through your breath and your urine.

The remaining 70% is rapidly absorbed through the upper part of the small intestine and taken up into the blood. The blood then takes it to the liver to be metabolized. The liver is the only organ that can handle the alcohol at a pretty fast rate but it can only handle about one drink an hour, on average.

What is one drink?

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 10 ounces of wine cooler
  • 1-1/4 ounce of 80 proof distilled liquor such as whiskey, vodka, rum or scotch
  • 4 – 5 ounces of wine

The amount of alcohol that your liver can actually handle is affected by things such your body size, whether you have eaten, what sex you are, and your genetic make-up. It is also affected by whether you are on any medications and on the health of your liver.

If you are drinking alcohol more quickly than your liver can process it, the excess alcohol travels in your blood to all parts of your body until the liver can metabolize it.

Your Liver, Triglycerides and Alcohol

Normally, your liver prefers to breakdown and process fatty acids. The liver takes the fatty acids and breaks them down into triglycerides to be used as energy by the body. Any excess it stores as body fat. But when alcohol reaches the liver, the liver has to stop working on the fatty acids/triglycerides and pay immediate attention to the alcohol.

Because the alcohol stops the breakdown of the fatty acids/triglycerides, the excess spills over into the blood stream, increasing the blood triglyceride level. And, with time, the accumulation of fat in the liver can cause a condition called ‘fatty liver’. Be warned, though, that even one night of heavy drinking can cause observable fat in the liver.

So, alcohol raises your triglyceride level in two ways:

  1. The sugar in alcohol converts to triglycerides
  2. Alcohol cause the liver to produce more triglycerides

Knowing the Relationship Between Triglycerides and Alcohol

As someone dealing with high triglycerides, it is important to know and understand the relationship between triglycerides and alcohol so you can make an informed decision about the role of alcohol in your health and your life.

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