The Effects of Ethyl Alcohol

Ethanol, commonly known as ethyl alcohol, is a substance that holds a significant influence on the human body, particularly when consumed in large amounts. This blog post aims to delve into the general and specific effects of ethanol, examining its impact on various bodily systems and functions.

General Effects of Ethanol

Ethanol is metabolized by the body not for nutritional needs, but for neutralization and elimination. When the body's ability to metabolize and excrete alcohol is overwhelmed, intoxication begins. This condition often manifests initially with nervous symptoms and evolves depending on the blood alcohol level, which is the quantity of ethanol in the blood measured in g/l.

The oxidation of alcohol releases a significant amount of energy, yet it doesn't provide nutrients. This is why ethanol is often referred to as "empty calories" in the nutritional realm.

Ethanol has a biphasic effect on the central nervous system:

  1. In small doses, it can cause euphoria and a loss of inhibitory brakes.
  2. At higher doses, its depressant action on the central nervous system increasingly prevails.

Specific Effects of Ethanol

Ethanol's impact is not limited to the central nervous system; it also affects other parts of the body, leading to a range of health problems.

Impact on the Brain

Ethanol interferes with brain communication pathways, altering mood and behavior, impairing coordination, and making it harder to think clearly.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

Excessive ethanol consumption can damage the cardiovascular system, leading to conditions such as:

  • Alcoholic heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmias
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension

Impact on the Liver

High alcohol intake puts a significant metabolic strain on the liver, potentially causing inflammatory problems, including:

  • Alcoholic steatosis or fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Liver cirrhosis

Effects on the Pancreas

Ethanol can induce the production of toxic substances in the pancreas, leading to acute pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis) and potential complications.

Impact on the Fetus

Ethanol is toxic to the embryo/fetus. Excessive consumption during pregnancy can lead to many nutritional deficiencies and, in severe cases, cause fetal alcohol syndrome.

Effects on the Immune System

Excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease.

Impact on Nutritional Status and Oral Health

Chronic excessive alcohol consumption can compromise nutritional status, favor vitamin deficiencies, and change body composition. It can also lead to oral health problems, including stomatitis, canker sores, gingivitis, and tooth loss.

Increased Cancer Risk

Long-term excessive consumption of ethanol can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including those of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast.

Blood Alcohol Levels and Effects of Alcohol

The effects of alcohol on the brain vary depending on the blood alcohol level:

  • 0.2-0.4 g/l: Mild euphoria, talkativeness, mild motor incoordination, and possible moderate reduction in judgment and attention
  • 0.5-0.8 g/l: Aggravation of motor incoordination, reduction of perceptive ability, further reduction of judgment, tendency to dangerous driving
  • 0.8-1.0 g/l: Overestimation of one's driving ability, tendency to drive in the center of the road, evident delay in reaction times
  • 1.0-2.0 g/l: Emotional instability, memory impairment, loss of judgment, ataxia (motor incoordination), dysarthria (difficulty in articulating speech)
  • 2.0-4.0 g/l: Profound drunkenness, mental confusion, disorientation, apathy, marked perceptual changes, mydriasis (pupil dilation), vomiting, incontinence, inability to maintain an upright position
  • 4.0-5.0 g/l: Potentially lethal alcoholemia: coma, hypothermia, hypoventilation, arterial hypotension, anesthesia


Ethanol intake can negatively impact the body's temperature regulation, causing skin vasodilation and increased blood flow, leading to an initial sensation of heat but subsequent rapid dispersion. At high doses, it depresses the central thermoregulation mechanism. This phenomenon is mostly responsible for the reduction in the perception of cold, as well as heat, pain, etc.

In conclusion, while ethanol may provide temporary relief from cold or create a feeling of euphoria, its long-term effects on the body can be detrimental. It is important to consume ethanol responsibly and be aware of its potential impacts on health.

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The Wellyme Team

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