How cut­ting down drink­ing can pre­vent ‘Covid face’

Daily Dispatch - - Daily Life - KATE SPICER — The Daily Tele­graph

The news that, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent 2020 Global Drug Sur­vey, half of all sur­veyed said they had been drink­ing more dur­ing this lock­down, did not sur­prise me.

Like many, the frus­tra­tion and iso­la­tion in the face of this pan­demic had caused an uptick in my booze in­take.

I wasn’t drink­ing heav­ily but every night I drank, re­as­sur­ing my­self that it was only a cou­ple of glasses, some­times three, and that these were spe­cial times.

Even in my wildest younger days, I never drank every day. I was tak­ing wine far more dili­gently than I took vi­ta­min D. It took me a while to reg­is­ter I was one of these new Covid alkies. Every morn­ing I’d think, “Day off the booze to­day.”

Around 5pm, I’d think, “Ooh, you know what, I fancy a drink,” as if it was an ir­reg­u­lar thing, a sur­prise, when in fact like clock­work I was open­ing the fridge at 6pm day af­ter day, month af­ter month.

Many of the 50,000 re­spon­dents to the Global Drug Sur­vey ad­mit­ted Covid drink­ing had be­come a prob­lem: 38 per­cent re­ported sig­nif­i­cantly poorer men­tal health and 56 per­cent sig­nif­i­cantly poorer phys­i­cal health since in­creas­ing their al­co­hol in­take.

All of which sounds fa­mil­iar, but these weren’t the rea­sons I quit. What made me climb on the wagon wasn’t my mood, or my phys­i­cal health.

It was that my face ap­peared to be fall­ing off my skull, like a hu­man Shar Pei. Was it re­ally time to start sav­ing for a facelift? My tummy was pouchy; my fin­gers could be so thick in the morn­ings that I needed soap to get my rings off. I blamed my ‘or­mones - for all of it.

Then I gave up drink­ing for a week and, bingo, all those prob­lems re­ceded; af­ter a month, they van­ished.

I still drink, a bit. Maybe three days a week. The Mayo Clinic sug­gests one unit per day of al­co­hol is OK, one teeny tiny wine or half a beer, a ta­ble­spoon­ful of brandy - less than you think.

Prof Jonathan Chick is edi­tor in chief of Al­co­hol and Al­co­holism, the jour­nal of the Med­i­cal Coun­cil on Al­co­hol. “It is prob­a­bly only when taken with food that al­co­hol can pro­vide any real health ad­van­tages. Per­haps by re­duc­ing dam­age in blood ves­sels when a meal re­leases fats into the blood­stream,” he says.

Too much of the de­mon drink can cause car­diomy­opa­thy, ar­rhyth­mia, stroke, hy­per­ten­sion, fatty liver, hep­ati­tis, fi­bro­sis, cir­rho­sis, pan­cre­ati­tis, can­cer, brain dam­age, and hun­dreds of other con­di­tions.

But death did not scare me, wrin­kles and wine belly did. Turns out I don’t need a facelift, just less al­co­hol to my lips.

Here are six shallow rea­sons to re­duce or quit drink­ing, all ex­plained by se­ri­ous science.

Fewer wrin­kles

Nu­tri­tion­ist Rosemary Fer­gu­son says that drink­ing “dam­ages the struc­ture of the cell mem­branes and causes in­flam­ma­tion. It also plays havoc with the liver and the hor­mone sys­tem. All of which af­fect the ap­pear­ance of skin.

As you age, you nat­u­rally lose col­la­gen [the pro­tein that is the build­ing block of bone, mus­cles, ten­dons, lig­a­ments and skin]. The col­la­gen ma­trix is re­liant on vi­ta­min C and if your liver is us­ing up vi­ta­mins and min­er­als in the pri­or­ity work of metabolis­ing al­co­hol then it won’t be used to pro­duce col­la­gen. Chuck in the odd cig­a­rette and a late night and you’re re­ally look­ing at a per­fect storm.”

Bet­ter skin tone

Not only did my skin mirac­u­lously plump - some­thing the beauty in­dus­try loves to prom­ise in its pricy po­tions some days it even shone.

Many skin com­plaints are caused or wors­ened by al­co­hol’s in­flam­ma­tory ac­tion on the body, says Chick.

“It causes ex­ces­sive cap­il­lar­ies in the nose and cheeks, it causes the whites of the eyes to red­den, it can worsen any red flaky patches of skin and it’s prob­a­bly the same cause of the big nose seen in long-term heavy drinkers. Re­duce the drink, the cap­il­lar­ies shrink back and skin im­proves.”

No more wine-fu­elled rows

“Al­co­hol causes dis­in­hi­bi­tion, when we lose con­trols in our frontal lobes and be­come more im­pul­sive and less able to reg­u­late our be­hav­iour. That’s when we say things we re­gret,” says Chick.

Dis­in­hi­bi­tion is also the cause of bad, drunken de­ci­sions like em­bar­rass­ing texts, emails, so­cial me­dia in­ter­ac­tions and, for the kids, fool­ish “hook-ups.”

Sweet dreams

I slept like a baby, straight through. Even on less than ideal quan­ti­ties of sleep, I felt way more re­freshed. Even mod­est al­co­hol in­take in­ter­feres with all the im­por­tant pro­cesses of sleep.

“Al­co­hol sup­presses dream­ing,” says Chick. “And the longterm ef­fects of sup­press­ing dreams is harm­ful. Drink puts you into a kind of coma, and nor­mal sleep pat­terns are dis­turbed.”

Eas­ier press-ups

A King’s Col­lege, Lon­don study from 1990 found longterm al­co­hol mis­use causes pro­gres­sive mus­cle at­ro­phy and weak­ness, and es­ti­mated it af­fects be­tween a half and two thirds of prob­lem drinkers. Even for a mod­est drinker, like me, cut­ting down had an im­pact on my fit­ness. In­stead of kick­ing around at the back of the ex­er­cise class com­plain­ing about poor upper body strength and blam­ing it on be­ing 50, I just did the press-up.

Los­ing the ap­ple body shape

This is go­ing to sound very un­sis­terly, but cer­tain women seemed to pre­serve a very slen­der Nineties su­per­model wai­flike leg. From the hips up though, they all had a kind of puff­ball shaped upper body that could be dis­guised by clever styling in a fash­ion­able smocked top.

“The slim legs,” says Chick, “are due to the way al­co­hol in­ter­feres with mus­cle cells.” This was the same de­stroyed mus­cle fi­bre that had me flop­ping about pre­tend­ing I was in­jured at the gym.

Fer­gu­son adds: “The torso of heavy drinkers is of­ten the clas­sic ‘ap­ple’ shape.

When you hit mid­dle age, a per­fect storm of hor­mones and wine means you can be­come in­sulin-re­sis­tant, where in­sulin stores sugar as fat.

“Hence, drink­ing is like sit­ting on the sofa sculling en­ergy drinks de­signed for run­ning a marathon.”

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