Alcohol not a True Food, but a Drug:
The much disputed question as to whether alcohol is a food or not, is really of little or no practical importance. It is quite true, from its burning readiness, that, even in small amounts, it is capable of being burned in the body, thus giving the energy. This may give it a certain limited value in some forms of sickness, as, for instance, in certain fevers and infections, when the stomach does not seem to be able to digest food. But here it acts as a medicine rather than as a true food and, like all other medicines, should be used only under skilled medical advice and control. For practical purposes, any insignificant food value it may have is more than offset by its later poisonous and disturbing effects and, secondly, by its enormous expensiveness.
It never has more than a fraction of the food value of the grain or fruit out of which it was made; and the amount of nutrients that it contains costs ten times as much as it would in any of the staple foods.
Moreover, when it is taken with an ordinary supply of food, it is found that, for every ounce of alcohol burned in the body, a similar amount of the other food is prevented from being consumed, and probably goes to waste, owing to the harmful effects of alcohol upon digestion. Therefore, to talk of alcohol as a food is really absurd.
The Effect of Alcohol on Digestion:
It has been advocated by some that alcohol boost the appetite, and enables one to digest larger amounts of food. The early experiments seemed to support this claim by showing that alcohol, well diluted, and in moderate amounts, increased appetite and the flow of the gastric juice. When the experiments were carried a little further, however, it was clearly shown that its presence in the stomach and intestines, in such amounts as would result from a glass of beer, or one or two glasses of claret-wine with a meal, interfered with the later stages of digestion, so that the later harmful effects overbalanced any earlier good effects.
Effect of Alcohol on the Body Temperature:
Another claim made in favor of its use was that it warms the body and protects it against cold. The value of this claim can easily be judged by any person, having a little sense of humor, from the fact that it is equally highly praised by its users as a means of keeping them cool in hot weather. Its assumed effects in the case of both heat and cold were due to the same fact: it actually deadens the nerves for a time, against all the sensations of discomfort that one feels, but made no change whatever in the condition of the body that caused the discomfort. Any drug which has this deadening effect on the nerves is called a narcotic; and it is in this class that alcohol belongs.
It is because of this effect that those who drink heavily are much more likely to die from cold and exposure than those who let alcohol alone. Nowadays, officers of armies upon forced marches, Arctic explorers, explorers in the tropics, and those who have to train themselves for the most severe strains, all are acquainted with the fact that the use of alcohol is harmful instead of helpful under these conditions.
Effects of Alcohol on Working Power of the Body:
Some claim that alcohol enhances the working power of the body; that more work and better work can be done by men at hard labor, if a little beer, or wine, was taken with their meals. Indeed, many of those, who take alcohol, believe that they work faster and better, and with less effort after having it, than without it. But the moment that this feeling of increased power and strength was submitted to careful tests in the laboratory, it was found that instead of more being accomplished when alcohol was taken, even in very moderate amounts, less was accomplished by from six to twelve per cent. The false sense of increased vigor and power was due to the narcotic power of alcohol to deaden the sensations of fatigue and discomfort.
It was discovered long ago, almost as soon as when the training for athletic feats or contests had started, that alcohol was not only useless, but very injurious. Any champion who, on the eve of a contest, “breaks training” by “taking a drink,” knows that he is endangering his record and giving his competitors an advantage over him.
In Nut-shell, we must conclude that the well known stimulating effects of alcohol are really due to its power of deadening us to sensations of discomfort or fatigue. The greatest and most serious danger of alcohol comes in, when even in the smallest doses, it begins to deaden us both mentally and morally, thus lessens our power of control. This loss of control steadily increases with each successive drink, until finally the man, completely under the influence of liquor, reaches a stage when he can neither think rationally nor speak intelligently, nor even walk straight or stand upright. And makes the most humiliating and disgusting demonstration which humanity can present.
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