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Regional News of Tuesday, 15 February 2005

Source: GNA

Alcohol has no nutritional value - Psychiatrist

Accra, Feb. 15, GNA - Dr. Samuel Allotey, Chief Psychiatrist of the Ghana Health Service, said on Tuesday that alcohol adds no nutritional value to the body as widely claimed.

Dr Allotey, who catalogued a number of side effects of alcohol and tobacco said, "Often people do not see alcohol as a drug; they only think of it as a beverage... its calories have no nutritional value to the body."

He explained that the calories could not be converted into protein and therefore, could not be stored for later use in the body. Dr Allotey, speaking at the Ghana Health Service monthly health promotion on the topic "Alcohol and Tobacco" said because the fat in alcohol did not burn, it was deposited resulting in weight gain. He, however, said alcohol also caused weight loss when the consumer lacked appetite, causing depression in the immune system and increased the incidence of infection.

The Chief Psychiatrist said alcohol did not enhance sexual performance.

"A Research shows that moderate quantities cause vaginal and penile vasocongestion and hence sexual arousal... this is probably what is exploited in on our local market. Higher doses, however, reduce this effect".

He said the media hype was a powerful tool for recruiting novices and sustaining the habit of veterans.

"The use of big names, popular stars and successful men and women makes the attraction to alcohol almost irresistible. We are gradually challenging and catching up with the big boys in the world alcoholism league."

Dr Allotey said a serious complication of alcohol abuse was foetal alcohol syndrome in the unborn baby when a pregnant woman abused alcohol.

He said alcohol abuse led to low productivity, breakdown of the family and marriages, increased delinquent behaviour and low commitment to religion.

Dr Allotey called on the government to intervene by banning smoking in public places and alcohol advertising both in the electronic and print media.

On Tobacco use, Dr Allotey said passive smoking had equally bad effects on people as those who smoked. He said government should establish a national drug and alcohol institute for research and a national rehabilitation and treatment centre.

"Until then we all have the duty of educating one another and encouraging ourselves to stay away from the habit of drug use." He urged parents, traditional and opinion leaders, civil society and the government to teach the youth to cherish and preserve traditional values and cultural heritage, which could be protective against drug abuse. Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, said the monthly health promotion lecture was meant to diminish the ignorance and myths that surrounded health. He expressed worry about the rate at which drug abuse was rising saying, "drug abuse is a problem, as drug addicts contribute to the high crime rate in the country".