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How is alcohol metabolized?

June 5, 2014

Good Question!

As we know, alcohol is an unknown substance by which our body begins to metabolize as soon as it is ingested. This means that your body preferentially metabolizes alcohol over anything else, including food. The thought that food will be digested first and thus, will allow you to “get less drunk” is a myth and really doesn't amount to much scientifically.

When metabolism starts in the stomach, several actions involving enzymes located in the fluid within the cells (primarily the liver) begin breaking down alcohol into energy to be sent to the mitochondria for use. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, so calories typically = energy.

The remaining compounds, called acetate, gets sent into circulation which could lead to production of fatty acids. Acetate is eventually metabolized to CO2 in heart, skeletal muscle, and brain cells. Acetate increases blood flow into the liver and depresses the central nervous sys­tem, as well as affects various metabolic processes. Alcohol is also metabolized within the brain (which makes sense) via the action of several other enzymes. The metabolism of acetate is also involved in fat and cholesterol production in the mitochondria of peripheral and brain tissues. Furthermore, when alcohol metabolism byproducts comes into contact with fatty acids, other products are created that could result in bodily tissue damage. There are other consequences that result from continued alcohol intake, but that is irrelevant to your inquiry.

I hope this information helps. Happy Eating (& Drinking?)!

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