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Eat, Drink and Be Wary: The Health Risks of Overindulging

By Martha Michael

Cheers to Your Health

The calendar is crammed with a smorgasbord of seasonal celebrations, most of them replete with bountiful servings of food and drinks to fit the occasion. The trouble is that those heaping spoonfuls of overindulgence have health hazards baked into them.

That’s not to say that every holiday leads to Mardi Gras-level bacchanalia -- but the American way to celebrate often involves a fair amount of eating and drinking.

Back-to-Back Party Seasons

The biggest offenders, when it comes to food and drink compromises, just might be “the holidays” at the end of the year.

It begins with Halloween, which garners you more candy than you consume all year. Creating costumes is healthy enough, but between trick or treat, the latter wins the battle of fan favorites, but also loses the war with its consequences -- weight gain and tooth decay. And if you go to an adult Halloween party, you can bet there’s a fair amount of alcohol involved in any witches brew.

A month later is Thanksgiving, which is (almost) all about food. Jokes abound about the tryptophan in the turkey, causing Uncle Roy to snore by 4 p.m. But the American Council on Science and Health says there’s a lot more wrong with turkey than you thought.

The potential health problems associated with L-Tryptophan supplements include:

  • Higher risk of eye-damage
  • Reduced liver function
  • Inflammation
  • Limited brain function
  • Cancer

In fact, an article by the ACSH details health risks from nearly every course of the Thanksgiving meal, from sulfites in the wine to formaldehyde in the apple pie.

Moving on to Christmas, we all know you can’t socialize without being tempted by indecent quantities of eggnog, sugar cookies, holiday cakes and candies, not to mention the bottles of booze that break out at parties. And New Year’s Eve is the same -- just in greater quantities.

Early February brings with it the Super Bowl, which is a holiday built on excess. Dips and chips, chicken wings and chili, pizza -- not to mention beer and soda -- are staples to five hours (or more) of indulgence.

The chocolate and sweets of Valentine’s Day seem tame by comparison, but it means you can maintain your sugar high right through to March Madness. That’s when you switch gears to include massive amounts of meat, pizza, sub sandwiches and potato chips. Oh yes, and beer -- which is just as good when it’s St. Patrick’s Day green.

If you don’t feel full yet, it may be that you have a very large frame -- or you’ve learned to pace yourself.

Food, Not So Glorious, Food

The down side to overeating and drinking has been studied for years, and with good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says that 39.8 percent of American adults are obese, and the agency claims the problem is “common, serious and costly.”

Health conditions resulting from obesity include:

  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Specific cancers

The U.S. is paying a price for the growing problem, the CDC says. When last surveyed, the annual cost for medical resources related to obesity was $147 billion, which means we pay $1,429 more per year for overweight individuals than for individuals whose weight falls into the normal range.

But for costs to go down, so must Americans’ weight gain. The obvious solution is dieting, but the CDC warns against short-term fad diets, suggesting a better balance of physical activity and calorie intake.

Lifestyle changes that include healthy habits are “best practice” options, and they’re most successful with professional advisement. A chiropractor is trained to help patients design a wellness plan and exercises to trim down the body at a rate that’s safe and healthy. With a blueprint that includes a routine of fresh food, fitness and regular chiropractic visits, it’s not long before you become the “tall drink of water” you envisioned.

Drinking is Not a Game

“Think Your Drink” is part of the CDC’s guide to cutting calories, but there are other reasons to mind your beverage intake.

A health article by NBC News offers a more conservative view of alcohol limits than previously recommended. It cites a study indicating that more than five drinks per week is too many for average adults.

Analyzing data from more than 500,000 people in 19 countries, a team of researchers told the medical journal The Lancet that heavier drinkers are more often victims of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and aortic aneurysms.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously conducted research concluding that men can safely consume two drinks per day and women can drink up to half that much without consequence. The definition of one drink is 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Cambridge University risk expert David Spiegelhalter provides a practical application to the more recent analysis. “A 40-year-old individual who drinks four more units per day than recommended can expect to die two years earlier than necessary,” he says. “This works out (to) about an hour per day. So, it’s as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette. Of course, it’s up to individuals whether they think this is worthwhile.”

There are plenty of days worth celebrating -- it’s just a matter of moderation. Finding a balance based on routine chiropractic care and a reasonable amount of exercise will prepare you for those occasions when the food and drink options are loaded with health hazards … especially if you aim to be the life of the party..

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