Informed Choices

Alcohol-related Facts

What is alcohol?
Alcohol is a natural product which results from the fermentation of natural sugars present in fruit, vegetables or cereal and their natural conversion into alcohol. The percentage of alcohol varies according to which product has been fermented. Most beers contain around 5% alcohol and most wines 12%. On the other hand, some distilled drinks may have an alcohol content of up to 40%.
Alcohol should be drunk with moderation, as it affects the central nervous system which regulates the body’s vital functions, namely breathing, digestion and the heart’s blood pumping. It also affects the transmission of messages to and from the brain. Thus the reason for the alterations in one’s perception, emotions, vision and hearing associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. And the largest the ingested amount of alcohol, the more intense the alterations.

We believe that it is important to inform and educate our consumers about all the aspects related with our products and brands. Our experience in the sector has enabled us to conclude that there are many preconceived ideas about beer, especially with regards to its nutritional value and calorie content. Many people think that beer is fattening! If drunk in moderation, these ideas are not true. As a matter of fact, beer’s caloric value is equal or less than that of other drinks. Moreover, beer is rich in protein and is an important vitamin source. It does not contain preservatives, additives or fat. However, moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle.

Calorie value of various drinks - Kcal in 100 grams
(Source: Netherlands Nutrition Centre) 
Whisky 245
Red wine 82
White wine 70
Alcohol mix drinks 65
Milk 63
Beer 42
Orange juice 39
Soft drinks 39

Scientific studies have shown that, when drunk in moderation, beer presents the same health benefits and risks as wine. According to a growing number of solid scientific proofs, the group of people who are over 40 and drink moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages shows a substantially reduced risk of suffering a heart attack or cardiovascular disease in comparison to teetotalers or abusive drinkers. There is also proof that the moderate consumption of beer may help diminish the risk of dementia and Type 2 Diabetes. However, this only applies to moderate drinkers, with additional studies currently underway regarding this subject matter. When drunk in moderation, beer does not lead to weight gain
Health is an issue of great importance to governments, health organizations and consumers. If consumers are to make the right decisions, we must provide them with a complete and balanced analysis of the alcoholic content and nutritional value of beer. 

What are the effects of alcohol in the body?
Alcohol ingestion leads to the central nervous system’s sedation and in case of excessive intake to the latter’s irritation.
Sedation may lead to a state of happiness, sadness, relaxation or anger. The irritation which follows an excessive drinking episode (better known as hangover) may cause headache, nausea and a serious of other discomforting symptoms. The level of drunkenness and hangover depends on the amount of alcohol ingested, time of the day and speed of ingestion, body weight and gender (women show higher levels of alcohol in the bloodstream following the ingestion of the same amounts of alcohol). The amount of food eaten and the time when it was eaten are factors which must also be taken into account.

"Alcohol may slow down reflexes, affect coordination and distort one’s vision."

Alcohol may slow down reflexes, affect coordination and distort one’s vision as well as lead to memory loss or in some cases to fainting. Hence, after drinking, one should never drive or perform an activity that requires balance and coordination.
Most of the alcohol which is ingested is metabolized by the liver and converted into carbon dioxide and water. However, after having one single drink, it may take 3 hours or longer before the body gets rid of all alcohol. Alcohol may contribute to an increase in blood pressure, increased heart rate and cause abnormal heart beating. Excessive consumption over several consecutive years may increase the size of the heart and cause harm to the liver and other organs. An episode of abusive drinking may lead to a “serious alcoholic intoxication” and may have a fatal ending.

How does alcohol make us feel?
Some people "notice" that after having two drinks they feel more relaxed and less inhibited; others feel sad, anxious or aggressive. The same amount of alcohol may also cause physical alterations, such as more difficulty in controlling the body, slower reactions and less sensitive hearing and taste. After the third, fourth or fifth drinks, one’s reasoning and discernment is reduced drastically.
And if one continues to drink, the effects of alcohol become even more obvious. Emotions may become on edge, the face may turn quite red and it may be difficult to stand up or speak clearly. At this point, drunkenness has settled in! Soon, the person may faint and wake up the following morning without remembering the previous evening’s events. In addition, it will not be a very good night’s sleep and a headache will surely be there in the morning, as well as heartburn, muscular pains and a dry mouth. As for the famous hangover remedies (black coffee, cold shower, fresh air and others) these may somewhat relieve the unpleasant symptoms but will surely not speed up the speed at which the body eliminates the alcohol. The body metabolizes alcohol at a pace of one unit per hour and a half/ two hours (1 unit corresponds to 25cl of beer).
People who drink on a regular basis may have to drink larger quantities to experience the same effects as they have become more tolerant to alcohol. Sex, age, genetic composition, height and weight may also influence what one “feels” when drinking alcoholic beverages.

Guidelines involving the ingestion of alcoholic beverages. Most scientists and doctors agree that an adult man may safely drink between 20-24 grams of alcohol/day (approximately two 33cl bottles of beer or three 20cl draught beers) and that an adult woman may safely drink between 10-12 grams of alcohol/day (approximately one 33cl bottle or two 20cl draught beers).

General drinking guidelines
When you have a drink, the concentration of alcohol in your blood depends on various factors, including: Are you a man or woman? How much did you drink? At what time did you start drinking? What did you have to eat before having a drink? What is your height and weight? How is your health?
Because of these different aspects and the fact that your body starts metabolizing alcohol from the moment you take your first sip, it is difficult to determine the alcohol level in your blood at a specific moment or which will be the effects. We know that a healthy human liver takes about 2 to 3 hours to metabolize and remove the 14 grams contained on average in a normal drink.

Hence, always remember that if you have 2 or 3 units of beer, wine or a distilled drink, your blood may still contain alcohol 2 or 3 hours later. If you drink too much alcohol at night, the concentration of alcohol in your blood may still be above the legal limit in the morning.
There are many people who have occasionally drunk too much, but only a few are alcoholic. In spite of this, the state of drunkenness is not a nice sight and always leaves its traces behind. It is never totally safe and should be avoided. Drinking alcohol sensibly may be beneficial to your health where as the abuse of alcohol abuse may cause serious damage to your health.
So what is sensible drinking? In the opinion of most scientists and doctors men may safely drink two 33cl bottles of beer or three 20cl draught beers a day, which may even protect them against coronary disease, especially if they are 45 or more. Women are recommended to drink one 33cl bottle or two 20cl draught beers a day. Guidelines involving the ingestion of alcoholic beverages. Most scientists and doctors agree that an adult man may safely drink between 20-24 grams of alcohol/day (approximately two 33cl bottles of beer or three 20cl draught beers) and that an adult woman may safely drink between 10-12 grams of alcohol/day (approximately one 33cl bottle or two 20cl draught beers).

Guidelines for men and women
The American government’s Dietary Guidelines recommend the “moderate” consumption of alcoholic beverages by men. By moderate, it means two normal size drinks a day for men and one for women. For a more detailed consultation of these guidelines visit
The above-mentioned guidelines highlight the risks of excessive drinking. Among the health risks mentioned are high blood pressure, stroke, hepatic cirrhosis, pancreas inflammation, brain damage and cancer, including breast cancer. Other hazards include road accidents and other forms of injury, as well as the dangers to which a fetus is exposed as a result of drinking during pregnancy.
It is important to remember that alcohol affects men differently from women. Because women have a smaller proportion of water in their bodies than men, they become drunk faster than men who have a similar body weight, because their alcohol metabolism is slower.
There is some health benefits associated with the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. It may help reduce the risk of coronary disease, especially in the case of men who are over 45 and in women above 55. However, other factors must also be taken into account in this area, such as following a healthy diet, regular exercise, abstain from smoking and keeping a healthy weight.

People who should never drink
The responsible drinking guidelines which we have provided are merely indicative. They may contribute towards moderate consumption, but it is up to every individual to be responsible for what they drink. There are however people who have to be even more aware of alcohol-related risks.
The following groups should not drink alcohol in any circumstances whatsoever:
* Children and adolescents.
* People who cannot drink moderately, namely alcoholics under rehabilitation, people who have problems with alcohol and people with alcohol-related problems in the family.
* Pregnant women and women planning to get pregnant.
* Individuals who intend to drive, operate machinery or undertake activities which require attention, dexterity and coordination.
* Individuals taking prescription or non-prescription medication which may interact with alcohol.


Part of the Heineken Company