Harvard Women's Health Watch

A few things you might not know about alcohol

Beer, wine, and spirits are foods as well as intoxicants that have different effects in women than in men.

In the first episode of the sitcom "Grace and Frankie," the title characters, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, are ordering drinks before dinner. When carb-conscious Fonda sends the breadbasket away and asks for a very dry vodka martini, Tomlin reminds her that vodka is made from potatoes. Fonda responds, "Alcohol has its own rules."

Fonda wasn't that far off. Alcohol isn't a carbohydrate, or a fat, or a protein. It's in a unique category as far as the body is concerned. "When I ask medical students to list the macronutrients—substances that provide energy for the body—most remember the first three, while few think to list alcohol," says Dr. Kenneth J. Mukamal, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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