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Medicine LibreTexts

7: Alcohol

  • 7.1: Introduction to Alcohol
    Alcohol is both a beverage providing some sustenance and a drug. For thousands of years, alcohol has been consumed in a medicinal, celebratory, and ritualistic manner. It is drunk in just about every country and often in excessive amounts. Alcohol can be made from a variety of different starch foods through the processes called fermentation. Fermentation of a starchy food such as barley or wheat can produce ethanol and \(\ce{CO2}\) which makes up what is commonly known as beer.
  • 7.2: Alcohol Metabolism
    Giving the liver enough time to fully metabolize the ingested alcohol is the only effective way to avoid alcohol toxicity. Drinking coffee or taking a shower will not help. The legal limit for intoxication is a BAC of 0.08. Taking into account the rate at which the liver metabolizes alcohol after drinking stops, and the alcohol excretion rate, it takes at least five hours for a legally intoxicated person to achieve sobriety.
  • 7.3: Health Consequences of Alcohol Abuse
    Multiple studies show high intakes of hard liquor are linked to weight gain, although this may be the result of the regular consumption of hard liquor with sugary soft drinks, juices, and other mixers. On the other hand drinking beer and, even more so, red wine, is not consistently linked to weight gain and in some studies actually decreases weight gain.
  • 7.4: Health Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Intake
    In contrast to excessive alcohol intake, moderate alcohol intake has been shown to provide health benefits. The data is most convincing for preventing heart disease in middle-aged and older people. A review of twenty-nine studies concluded that moderate alcohol intake reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by about 30 percent in comparison to those who do not consume alcohol.