Alcohol is one of nature's oldest toxins.
It is produced by yeast, which can thrive on moldy fruit.
Animals recognize this as a toxin and so avoid eating the fruit, due to the damage the alcohol can cause.
Yet alcohol is something humans actually choose to consume.
We provide the right conditions for yeast to ferment the sugars in fruit, then extract the moldy fruit mixture and separate the pure clear ethanol from it.
The short-term effects of this toxic alcohol are well known, particularly affecting the brain.
But it is the cumulative effect of this toxin that can cause the worst damage to the body.
The long-term effects can persist for the rest of your life, and in the worst cases lead to death.
Excessive alcohol consumption can cause weight gain and can even cause breasts to form in men, due to the effects on the mammary gland.
This is known as gynecomastia.
Alcohol can severely damage the liver.
The liver normally processes blood to remove, break down and detoxify harmful substances.
When alcohol is drunk the liver removes it from the bloodstream.
It can then accumulate in the liver, where it can cause scar tissue to form in place of regular liver tissue.
This is called cirrhosis of the liver. It prevents the liver from functioning and is extremely serious.
Over two-thirds of people with severe alcoholic cirrhosis won't be alive five years after diagnosis.
Alcohol can also cause the pancreas to become inflamed - a vital organ that secretes digestive enzymes and hormones. With continual alcohol abuse, acute pancreatitis can develop, which can reduce life expectancy by 10 years.
Alcohol also has long-term effects on the brain, the heart, the stomach, and even increases the risk of catching other general infections.
Organs affected by alcohol include:
This simple yeast product has an alarming variety of effects on the body. Most animals will instinctively avoid it.
If we chose not to we may have to face the consequences of long-term alcohol use.