'Small amounts of alcohol are often promoted as being beneficial for health. However, alcohol is a drug that is abused and the repercussion of alcohol abuse over a long time can seriously effect most of the major organs of the body,' says Dr. Anna Kokavec, head of La Trobe University's School of Psychological Science.
She and her colleague Professor Simon Crowe are finding out exactly how alcohol affects the body by undertaking research that focuses on the links between alcohol consumption and appetite.
'Alcoholics often presents for treatment in a highly malnourished condition, an issue that can lead to health problems like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, (a condition that can lead to forms of amnesia and hallucinations) Dr. Kokavec says.
This malnourishment was often attributed to the 'poor dietary habits' of alcoholics, but now Dr. Kokavec's research has uncovered another reason to explain malnourishment in heavy drinkers and the results speak for themselves.
'We confirmed that certain biochemical processes associated with appetite regulation do change when alcohol was consumed.'
What this means is that alcohol such as beer and white wine were found to be suppressants of hunger, while red wine elevated one's hunger but only after that hunger had been suppressed originally.
'The research provides enough evidence to question whether malnutrition and poor dietary behaviour of alcoholics is the fault of the individual or whether it's the consequences of alcohol and the role it plays in suppressing appetite,' says Dr Kokavec.
Either way it is the applicable nature of this research that is starting to turn heads; if the link between appetite suppression and alcohol consumption can be explored then, according to Dr. Kokavec, better ways of treating patients suffering from alcoholism could be developed.
'Knowing whether alcohol, promotes, inhibits or has no effect on appetite is of great importance to health professionals involved in the treatment of alcoholics. It is also important when considering the effect that alcohol has in the development of diseases in humans,' she adds.