ALCOHOL HAS NO FOOD VALUE
Alcohol has no food value and is exceedingly limited in its action as a remedial agent. Dr. Henry Monroe says, "every kind of substance employed by man as food consists of sugar, starch, oil and glutinous matter mingled together in various proportions. These are designed for the support of the animal frame.
The glutinous principles of food fibrine, albumen and casein are employed to build up the structure while the oil, starch and sugar are chiefly used to generate heat in the body".
Now it is clear that if alcohol is a food, it will be found to contain one or more of these substances. There must be in it either the nitrogenous elements found chiefly in meats, eggs, milk, vegetables and seeds, out of which animal tissue is built and waste repaired or the carbonaceous elements found in fat, starch and sugar, in the consumption of which heat and force are evolved.
"The distinctness of these groups of foods," says Dr. Hunt, "and their relations to the tissue-producing and heat-evolving capacities of man, are so definite and so confirmed by experiments on animals and by manifold tests of scientific, physiological and clinical experience, that no attempt to discard the classification has prevailed.
To draw so straight a line of demarcation as to limit the one entirely to tissue or cell production and the other to heat and force production through ordinary combustion and to deny any power of interchangeability under special demands or amid defective supply of one variety is, indeed, untenable. This does not in the least invalidate the fact that we are able to use these as ascertained landmarks".
How these substances when taken into the body, are assimilated and how they generate force, are well known to the chemist and physiologist, who is able, in the light of well-ascertained laws, to determine whether alcohol does or does not possess a food value.
For years, the ablest men in the medical profession have given this subject the most careful study, and have subjected alcohol to every known test and experiment, and the result is that it has been, by common consent, excluded from the class of tissue-building foods.
"We have never," says Dr. Hunt, "seen but a single suggestion that it could so act, and this a promiscuous guess. One writer (Hammond) thinks it possible that it may 'somehow' enter into combination with the products of decay in tissues, and 'under certain circumstances might yield their nitrogen to the construction of new tissues.' No parallel in organic chemistry, nor any evidence in animal chemistry, can be found to surround this guess with the areola of a possible hypothesis".
Dr. Richardson says: "Alcohol contains no nitrogen; it has none of the qualities of structure-building foods; it is incapable of being transformed into any of them; it is, therefore, not a food in any sense of its being a constructive agent in building up the body." Dr. W.B. Carpenter says: "Alcohol cannot supply anything which is essential to the true nutrition of the tissues."
Dr. Liebig says: "Beer, wine, spirits, etc., furnish no element capable of entering into the composition of the blood, muscular fibre, or any part which is the seat of the principle of life." Dr. Hammond, in his Tribune Lectures, in which he advocates the use of alcohol in certain cases, says: "It is not demonstrable that alcohol undergoes conversion into tissue."
Cameron, in his Manuel of Hygiene, says: "There is nothing in alcohol with which any part of the body can be nourished." Dr. E. Smith, F.R.S., says: "Alcohol is not a true food. It interferes with alimentation." Dr. T.K. Chambers says: "It is clear that we must cease to regard alcohol, as in any sense, a food".
"Not detecting in this substance," says Dr. Hunt, "any tissue-making ingredients, nor in its breaking up any combinations, such as we are able to trace in the cell foods, nor any evidence either in the experience of physiologists or the trials of alimentarians, it is not wonderful that in it we should find neither the expectancy nor the realization of constructive power."
Not finding in alcohol anything out of which the body can be built up or its waste supplied, it is next to be examined as to its heat-producing quality.
Production of heat.
"The first usual test for a force-producing food," says Dr. Hunt, "and that to which other foods of that class respond, is the production of heat in the combination of oxygen therewith. This heat means vital force, and is, in no small degree, a measure of the comparative value of the so-called respiratory foods.
If we examine the fats, the starches and the sugars, we can trace and estimate the processes by which they evolve heat and are changed into vital force, and can weigh the capacities of different foods.
We find that the consumption of carbon by union with oxygen is the law, that heat is the product, and that the legitimate result is force, while the result of the union of the hydrogen of the foods with oxygen is water. If alcohol comes at all under this class of foods, we rightly expect to find some of the evidences which attach to the hydrocarbons."
What, then, is the result of experiments in this direction? They have been conducted through long periods and with the greatest care, by men of the highest attainments in chemistry and physiology, and the result is given in these few words, by Dr. H.R. Wood, Jr., in his Materia Medica.
"No one has been able to detect in the blood any of the ordinary results of its oxidation." That is, no one has been able to find that alcohol has undergone combustion, like fat, or starch, or sugar, and so given heat to the body.
Alcohol and reduction of temperature.
instead of increasing it; and it has even been used in fevers as an anti-pyretic. So uniform has been the testimony of physicians in Europe and America as to the cooling effects of alcohol, that Dr. Wood says, in his Materia Medica, "that it does not seem worth while to occupy space with a discussion of the subject."
Liebermeister, one of the most learned contributors to Zeimssen's Cyclopaedia of the Practice of Medicine, 1875, says: "I long since convinced myself, by direct experiments, that alcohol, even in comparatively large doses, does not elevate the temperature of the body in either well or sick people."
So well had this become known to Arctic voyagers, that, even before physiologists had demonstrated the fact that alcohol reduced, instead of increasing, the temperature of the body, they had learned that spirits lessened their power to withstand extreme cold. "In the Northern regions," says Edward Smith, "it was proved that the entire exclusion of spirits was necessary, in order to retain heat under these unfavorable conditions."