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Monday, March 6, 2017

THE WONDERS OF ALCOHOL

About one third of Americans do not drink any alcohol, a third less than one drink a week and then...:


Ten percent imbibe more than seven drinks per day.  I like to think I fall in the ninth decile, or a little more than two per day.

The medical profession has established the following comparative standards:
  • 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of beer (a typical can or bottle)
    • three beers/day keep the doctor away
    • contains a wealth of nutrients and vitamins
  • 5 ounces (148 ml) of wine
    • a standard wine bottle contains 25.4 ounces or 750 ml 
    • thus, two glasses mean you will be drinking 40% of the bottle
    • two people drinking a whole bottle consume 2.5 glasses each
    • the operative recommendation is two glasses/day for males and one glass/day for females
  • 1.5 ounces (44 ml) of distilled spirits (scotch, gin, etc.) at 80 proof (40% alcohol)
    Wines are a bit tricky, for they can vary in alcohol content from less than 10% to 20% or more for sherry and port.  Here is a chart that shows alcohol content:
    Should you drink alcohol or not?  Doctors tend to recommend red wine in moderation.  However, those who consume any form of alcohol, EVEN HEAVY DRINKERS, live longer than those who don't.  True scientific experiment:  alcohol can double your life expectancy.  However, you need to be a worm, Caenorhabditis elegans.  Most medical studies favor varying amounts of alcohol.  


    Many health benefits are associated with drinking a moderate amount of alcohol each day -- such as lowering blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity and reducing risk of developing cancer and heart disease.  Alcohol can lower your blood sugar.

    The majority of people, I would speculate, use the previous section as a good excuse to drink, but the reality is that mild inebriation increases sociability, reduces anxiety, helps to forget your problem, improves your mood, enhances courage (at the risk of impaired performance), makes you happier...add your own reasons.  There are the downsides, of course (and to actually read that fine print, as to the right, just click on the graphic):
    • impairs your ability to drive
    • causes liver and brain problems
    • increases depression
    • triggers heart ailments
    • dehydrates your body
    • causes bad breath
    • affects breathing
    • increases hangover
    • disrupts sleep
    • causes headaches
    • adds calories

    Rather this is ominous or just following doctor's orders, studies show that heavy drinking rose by 17% from 2005 to 2012 and binging is up almost 9%.

    The alcohol we are talking about is ethanol, a two-carbon compound liquid.  Methanol has one carbon and drinking only a shot can kill you.  You can get drunk on the 3-carbon propanol and isopropanol, but don't.  Toxic compounds can form in your body.  This ethanol is that same fluid you place in your gas tank, although, finally, it is more and more being shown that that the Farm Lobby duped the American public and world in general.

    Ethanol is water soluble and moves easily throughout your body.  In the brain, it acts as a depressant on the central nervous system.  Ethanol binds glutamate receptors (which ignites neurons) and slows response.  At a certain concentration you will get drowsy, laugh more easily and have difficulty walking.  Eventually the ethanol is metabolized in your liver and broken down into carbon dioxide, water and energy.  This carbon dioxide expelled through your lungs is how a Breathalyzer works.

    What stimulated me to fashion the above info was an article I this week read from the February issue of National Geographic entitled, A 9,000-year Love Affair with Booze. Yes, China was where wine was made from rice, honey and fruit that long ago.  However, another report indicated that palm wine was popular as far back as 16,000 BC, and a Chilean drink, potato chicha, goes back 15,000 years.  Wine/beer from grasses was brewed in the Middle East as long as 12,000 years ago. This pictogram to the left came from Iran.  There is a fierce debate as to which came first:  beer/wine or bread.  All signs point to alcohol.

    In comparison, coffee and tea only date back 5000 years.  Interestingly enough, both alcohol and caffeine were survival products plants evolved to kill insect predators and microbes.  It has worked, as it is estimated that alcohol kills 3.3 million of us each year.  However, medical studies show that coffee eases the passage of alcohol through your liver.  Four cups of coffee reduces alcoholic cirrhosis by 80%.
    Going back to the beginning, there is growing evidence that ethanol gave early Homo sapiens a survival edge.  Before we were smart enough to purify water, the antiseptic qualities of ethanol made it safer for consumption.  It is possible that our early ancestors evolved from tree-dwellers to landlubbers because the fermenting fruits enticed our ancestors to the ground.

    All this heavenly goodness comes from a yeast called Saccharomyces, which takes sugars and starches and synthesized ethanol.  But they were doing this for 120 million years until humans improved the process.  


    Also, a mutation occurred in the ape-line leading us where a change in the ADH4 gene created an enzyme that allowed our bodies to digest ethanol with far greater efficiency.  Further along in time the need to have an accessible crop for their brew could well have invented farms.   It was just around 10,000 years ago that agriculture came into prominence.

    Finally, in comparison to the world, Americans are pretty average, the big imbibers being Europeans and Australians:


    Alcohol is not considered a vice in much of Europe.  For example, in France, children are eased into drinking as early as 12.  The world alcoholism rate is around 4%, while the USA stands at 5.5%, same as France, Russia and Lithuania.  Strange, then, that all those former Soviet countries seem to die at a higher rate than anyone else:

    The lighter the yellow, the lower the rate, while RED is bad.  I have to question those 5.5% reports above, for regarding drinking volume rate in liters (slightly more than a quart) of pure ethanol/person/year (2015 projection):
    • #1   Moldova             17.4
    • #2   Belarus               17.1
    • #3   Lithuania            16.2
    • #4   Russia                14.5
    • #4   Czech Republic  14.1
    •        Australia             12.6
    •        France                12.6
    •        UK                      12.0
    • #48 USA                     9.0
    • #75 Japan                  7.5
    • #87 Italy                      6.6
    • #152 Singapore          2.9
    • #176 Afghanistan       1.2
    So what you are today could well have been heavily influenced by the benefits of ethanol.  Some of us are proudly carrying on the tradition.

    Next?  What about marijuana?


    More than anything else, this blog site is esoteric.  Very few people still enjoy disco music, the era that began in the 70's and went on for about a decade.  Matt Damon hated this genre in The Martian.  I don't think there is even one station in the world that focuses on disco music.  But for the aficionado of this form, PBS tonight will Get Down Tonight for the Disco Explosion.  Only the most conscientious actually watches the whole program, for fund-raising dominates...but you can record the program.  Hawaii at 9PM...tonight.


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    Tropical Cyclone Enawo in the Indian Ocean is now at 105 MPH and getting closer to Madagascar:




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