Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The history of alcohol in the body

“The history of a can of beer in the body”
Alcohol is metabolized and processed in a series of six steps: alcohol in the stomach is absorbed into the bloodstream, the alcohol in the small intestine is then absorbed into the blood before other nutrients in the body, the liver enzymes break the alcohol down into water and carbon dioxide, a small amount of unmetabolized alcohol is excreted through urine and sweat, the unmetabolized alcohol in the blood moves into the lungs and is inhaled, and lastly, the alcohol in the blood is transported to the brain and begins to affect the central nervous system. There are some factors that influence how fast the alcohol is delivered to the brain; for instance, eating a high-fat meal while drinking a beer, for instance, slows down the absorption of the alcohol into the brain, while drinking a carbonated drink has the opposite effect. Effects of alcohol consumption begin to fade about thirty minutes after the first drink is consumed, while it is about a fourth of its original level after an hour. This can change, however, is multiple drinks are consumed, which influences the “race” between the ethanol absorption into the blood and how fast the liver breaks it down. When alcohol concentration in the blood stream is low, it interferes with the brain’s inhibitory brain centers, which results usually in uncontrolled emotional displays, mood changes, and the loss of social constraint. At higher concentrations, motor coordination is partially lost, speech becomes slurred, and at even higher levels the ethanol effect becomes dominant, so that people can pass out, undergo a coma, or die.
Unfamiliar terms:
Ethanol: a straight chain alcohol, and a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid
This process I think is really important to know, as well as the effects of speeding it up or ignoring its effects. To me, because alcohol is in such common use throughout the world, and especially on college campuses, it is incredibly important to know about how your body reacts to alcohol, as well as what can be done to speed up or slow down its effects, as well as the less dramatic effects it has on your body, such as dehydration.
Baird, Colin. Chemistry in Your Life. New York: W.H. Freedman and CO, 2006.
“Ethanol” Wikipedia. Feb 17 2009.

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