Here’s to Alcohol: The Cause and Solution to all Life’s Problems

Contributors: Kinnar Patel Kellie Garrett Felecia Alexander “Let’s get this party started.” And these are the last words you remember coming out of your mouth July 4th weekend. With the holidays behind us, many are still trying to recover from either burnt BBQ that your brother served you trying to showboat his grilling skills; to binge drinking that started off by you saying, “I am just going to have one beer”.  The amount of food consumed over the holidays by a single family is enough to feed a small country, and the amount of alcohol consumed would get them tipsy! Statistics show that the 4th of July is the fourth most popular holiday for drinkers according to alcoholic beverages sales, reported by Nielsen Co. (68 million cases of beer sold in the two weeks leading up to July 4). Bloomberg, Braham and Hutheesing, 2013 We all recognize when alcohol is taking affect in our system: it’s known to have a sedative effect and cause one to be fatigued. However, the sleepy effect of alcohol is usually for a short period of time (and that’s unfortunate). The production of neurotransmitters, histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins in the central nervous system is increased at the point of alcohol consumption. All these factors including the expansion of blood vessels contribute to the mind-numbing and throbbing headache felt the next day (this is the point of realization that maybe you should have stopped after 2 drinks, instead of 6,8,10… who’s counting?).  Since alcohol has a diuretic effect, it then causes an increase in the production and excretion of urine. When you lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes from the body by vomiting, sweating and diarrhea; this leads to dryness of the mouth, thirst and dizziness. This is the most common hangover symptom, dehydration. When you consume alcohol the glucose concentration in the blood level is reduced causing hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia makes your body weak and causes mood changes (particularly an aversion to … everything). Hard drinks (like Rum, Vodka & Gin) with greater than 20 vol % alcohol concentration stimulate the production of gastric acid. An increase in gastric acid contributes to the abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting.  But how do these effects occur, and what physical changes are taking place with your body’s metabolism? Ethanol (CAS 64-17-5) is oxidized in the liver and converted to acetaldehyde (CAS 75-07-0). Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) (CAS 53-84-9) is used as an oxidizing agent in the process of ethanol conversion to acetaldehyde. The human body has an alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzyme that catalyzes the reaction between ethanol and acetaldehyde. Once ethanol has converted to acetaldehyde an individual will start to experience redness or a flush look in the face, which is due to the vasodilation effect of acetaldehyde. At this point your hangover is in its prime when headaches, trembling and flu-like symptoms start to occur.  Acetaldehyde is a toxic reagent that reacts with aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) to form harmless acetic acid (acetate) (CAS 64-19-7). Acetate formation occurs in the liver cells in the cytosol and in the mitochondria. Is it possible to reduce or alleviate the negative physical effects of alcohol consumption? Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ADH) is a key to the metabolism of alcohol, and corn peptides stimulate ADH activity in the body. Researchers have shown that corn proteins activate hepatic ADH, and as a result, these peptides decrease the blood’s alcohol concentration. Corn peptides have been used in the form of a food supplement or pharmaceutical to alleviate hangover symptoms. Other than corn peptide supplements there are other food remedies and pharmaceutical therapies that can be used. There are several remedies that we all know about like warm milk with honey, chicken soup, coffee, Gatorade, juice, aspirin (CAS 50-78-2), ibuprofen (CAS 15687-27-1), acetaminophen (CAS 103-90-2) and last but not least drink another one of the last alcoholic beverages you consumed the night before (I don’t think this works, I just think it’s an excuse to have one last drink). The above list helps control one or more symptoms that one might experience in a hangover.  For instance the Gatorade will help with dehydration and replenish electrolytes; juice against hypoglycemia; and medically the ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen will stop the headache and body aches (and hopefully keep the room from spinning). It’s important to be aware of blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) levels because this determines whether or not you are going to jail that night when you get pulled over by the police! The legal BAC driving limit for the state of Texas is .o8%. This may seem low but let me breakdown the effects each level has on your judgment. Between the alcohol levels .02-.03 impairment begins, at .04-.25 your driving skills suck, and from .26-.50 you are considered to be legally intoxicated (aka wasted). So before you go out for drinks with your friends take your iPhone or android out and download this nifty App “R u Buzzed? BAC Calculator” (use at your own risk), which calculates the number of drinks you have and your weight in order to determine whether or not it is safe for you to get behind the wheel. As a good rule of thumb don’t drive if you have even had a sip of alcohol. In the end, it’s likely the one and only advantage for ethanol consumption is the effect it has on your blood concentration levels which may directly prevent heart attacks and strokes. Levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) increase in the human body reducing heart attacks, and the decrease in coagulation in the blood (prevention of blood clots) reduces the risk of stroke. For this reason, doctors often will tell their patients that a glass of red wine will keep the doctor away.  So let’s just agree to stick to moderation! The DWCP doesn’t list your Gin & Tonics, Pina Coladas, or Coke & Rum drinks but we do list chemicals ethanol, acetaldehyde, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, acetic acid, aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. If you are in the market for pharmaceuticals, fine and specialty chemicals, search the DWCP today!