What’s in alcohol – and top 20 facts
It’s funny that people don’t really know that much about alcohol apart from drinking it and in more recent times that it is “good in hand gel”. What’s in alcohol rarely gets asked along with many other weird facts about it.
However, since it nearly killed me in what was one of the most bizarre moments of my nearly ended life ( my liver started to give in and I was just a social drinker with wine) I got more curious about alcohol, what is it and some more unusual facts about it.
It seems odd that it does so much damage or causes so much fun depending on how you look at it.
Here are my top twenty random facts including what’s in alcohol?
1 Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the world.
Forget all the so called horrible stuff, the hard core drugs that everyone gets wound up about. We turn our nose up at such “carrying on” while we sip our double whiskey and coke. Yet alcohol in all the research comes up as the most used drug in the world.
In the UK we have a so -called “double white line” on certain roads that says do not overtake while driving. In fact, it is illegal and against the law.
However, people say they have never broken the law but when you ask them if they ever crossed a double white line they say yes. WE have tunnel vision about alcohol in the same way.
Are you a drug user, no, what about alcohol, “well yes but that does not count”. Alcohol is the acceptable face of drug taking in most countries.
2 – Did you know there are varying types of alcohol?
Alcoholic drinks contain the chemical ethanol. This form of alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation process, which is the reaction of sugars and yeast. These sugars are sourced from foods rich in starch, such as maize, wheat, molasses, barley and potatoes.
3 – Alcohol is actually a poison!
Alcohol is a poison.
Alcohol is a toxin that kills cells such as microorganisms, which is why we use it to preserve food and sterilize skin, needles and our kitchen sink. Alcohol kills humans too.
A very high dose would make blood levels exceed drink-driving limits in the UK and can kill.
Alcohol is not good for our liver either!
So the job of the liver is to break down harmful substances in the body. If it is damaged and I talk from experience here this can lead to hepatitis, jaundice and cirrhosis, which is caused by scar tissue that eventually destroys the liver itself if you are not careful. Alcohol may also cause your kidneys, bladder and prostate to be inflamed.
4 -Alcohol is old like really old
Alcohol may be may as old as the beginning of time, well not quite. Expert found signs of alcohol in drink form that go back to 7,000 to 6,600 B.C. in China.
However, think Romans, Greeks, and even the early Celts have stories around early alcohol beverages. As for the early Monks well it was rife, but religion has I guess has had a love hate relationship with alcohol over the years. Yet we still ask : How is alcohol broken down then?
The liver is clear on its purpose and it won’t rush, think one unit and 1 hour. There is an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which transforms ethanol into a toxic compound called acetaldehyde (CH3CHO), a known carcinogen which is excreted from your body. Nice.
Your BAC is different and that is the blood alcohol level and can depend on your weight, the food you have eaten and muscle make up.
However, this does not change anything in terms of the speed of your liver to do it jobs. I have written more about the metabolism of alcohol here. If you are interested its a very misunderstood area.
5 – The Titanic Connection
Yes they drank a lot on the titanic but that’s not what I am talking about. If you have watched many of the Titanic films there was a chef who rather than go for the lifeboats hid in his quarters and drank himself stupid.
When he was in the water he began helping people! He is actually a distant relative of my partner believe it or not!
The reason he survived is that alcohol actually acts as an anti-freezing agent so he survived the cold and was one of the few survivors who lived. Of course, we have all heard of antifreeze for cars which is a mix of so called ethylene glycol dissolved in water.
Titanic survival it is not but despite being an ingredient for an antifreeze agent we appear to be OK to drink it in alcoholic drink form. Maybe the chef on the Titanic knew that was not freezing to death it could be lifesaver when he got legless!
Important to note antifreeze is not an alcoholic beverage, it will kill you!
6 – Its Kills one in 10
It’s a stark figure but according to the World Health Organization up to one in 20 deaths is linked to alcohol. For me that is a scary figure and yet it is ignored by the majority.
So to give that a number, drinking and alcohol kills in excess of 3 million people annually. That is quite a stat and does not of course take into account mental illness such as anxiety and depression.
7 – It stops infection
During covid it was deemed as a life saver and of course it is an antiseptic agent which makes the drinking of it even more bizarre. However, you can also use many other products if you are allergic to Alcohol.
Despite being never offered non-alcoholic sanitizer it is available although if you ask for it you are often frowned upon and one bar would not let me in unless I used alcohol. Imagine if it was peanuts!
8 – It was used as payment to the Aliens in Egypt.
Now I once went to Egypt to read the stories about how the aliens from another planet built the pyramids and the other wonders of the world that you have in that country.
However, in the talk I attended I was shocked to learn Archaeologists found evidence that suggested the many people ( not aliens) who built the Pyramids of Giza were paid in beer. In fact Egypt does have a local beer called Stella believe it or not. They also have a non-alcoholic beer.
So it seems like many countries use it as payment after all. The Aliens drank imported wine.
9 – Its fuel and not as we know it
Some alcohols are used as fuels in the internal combustion engines like methanol.
In the field of medicine, few of them are used as preservatives for the specimens in laboratories.
10 – Every Alcohol Drink has the same amount of alcohol – no it does not.
Here is a list of general measures out there but always check the ABV figures so alcohol by volume. This will give you a good idea though. These are based on brewery facts freely available but I have summarized them.
- Beer 2–6% alcohol
- Cider 4–8% alcohol
- Wine 8–20% alcohol
- Tequila 40% alcohol
- Rum 40% or more alcohol
- Brandy 40% or more alcohol
- Gin 40–47% alcohol
- Whiskey 40–50% alcohol
- Vodka 40–50% alcohol
- Liqueurs 15–60% alcohol
11 – It depresses more than it stimulates
Many people drink alcohol for the feel good factor and yes it is a stimulant. So you might have a glass to relieve the stresses of the day. It is where a glass of wine after work comes from very often.
However, if you start to drink too much alcohol you or your body can handle, then it’s very possible you might begin to feel depressed which is the opposite of how you wanted to feel when you started drinking. You can also appear to be all over the shop.
If you drink even more it is possible to go into deep depression. People often vomit, go into a coma and in extreme cases it results in death. Of course all of this depends on how much you have drunk, if you have eaten and the alcohol by volume of the drink itself.
Although one shot of vodka may be better than having 20 points of strong beers! We are all different!
12 – The more expensive place to drink is….
It is Bahrain according to the World Bank so if you drink there you are going to need deep pockets or a big allowance on your credit card. However, it might be worth it according to newspaper headlines and research because having a few glasses of red wine can be good for the heart but then no one mentions addiction or the liver so I guess it’s all about balance!
Red wine contains resveratrol, a substance which helps control cholesterol, prevent blood vessel damage, and stop blood clots.
13 Why is alcohol so cheap in Japan?
It’s all about the tax and actually not all the alcohol is cheap. In Japan, they have a big tax on malt so that why beers and some more expensive malt whiskeys are way over what you would pay elsewhere. However, that makes other drinks seem extremely cheap.
14 Why is beer so cheap in Germany?
Well we have all seen and tasted the excellent beers that come out of Germany. In fact many of my alcohol free beers are German.
They know their market and that is why so many breweries have been awards winners especially out of the Bavaria district. The reason is supply and demand. It seems like supply and demand does lower prices.
Special credit to them for a great range of alcohol free beers.
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15 Is a mocktail just a cocktail?
Cocktails with no alcohol are now called mocktails and don’t contain any alcohol for those that want to go down that route.
They are a great addition to non-alcoholic options and provide a fun approach especially if you are out and about plus they look brilliant. Really colorful just watch the calories!.
If you are confused between alcohol free cocktails and mocktails don’t be. I think one has been replaced by the other.
I once asked a barman what the difference was and he said” well one is a cocktail with alcohol and the other is an alcohol free cocktail called a mocktail.”
I was like “yeah right!”
16 – How much does alcohol cost the national health service in the UK?
In 2018 the figure was estimated 3.5 billion a year is the cost to the NHS in the UK with related alcohol illness and injury. That is a lot of money and yet that figure goes over most people’s heads and there is no correlation between alcohol and the price that costs us in the back pocket. Amazing really!
17 – There are laws for everything to do with alcohol – except how much you drink it!
Whenever I get my alcohol free delivery I am often asked to show by ID. Not that I look underage far from it’s because there are laws for everything to do with alcohol apart from how much we drink it! Even non and low alcohol is put in this bracket.
There are laws concerning alcohol around :
- The manufacture including the brewing
- How it is packaged
- How it is labeling and branded.
- Sale of drinks from 16 to 21 year old or not at all to anyone!
- Blood alcohol content known as BAC when we drive a car. It varies across the world
- How alcoholic drinks are moved from one place to another
Non alcoholic drinks often come under the same laws although it is never really clear..
Although in reality it has done nothing to really educate us although In Scotland the minimum pricing of alcohol in off-licences and supermarkets does seem to have had an effect.
We could still however go home or in a bar subject to a landlord and drink whatever we want. There is also the added factor where alcoholic free drinks are still hard to come by.
18- Coffee is the answer to everything well no it isn’t !
Coffee can make you feel more alert and awake after all it has lots of caffeine and yes as I write about here it does nothing to speed up the metabolism of alcohol in the liver.
The only solution is to let your liver do its job after drinking a ton of alcohol. Giving your body time to process the alcohol is the only way to sober up even with a hangover. In fact coffee can add to anxiety and even more shakes.
Coffee can be good for the liver according to early studies but it’s not the silver bullet to alcohol.
19 – Dutch courage anyone
Alcoholic gin was given to armies to firm up their confidence in wars over the years. It was a form of gin and was created by a dutch scientist thus the term “dutch courage“.
20 – It’s worth a lot of money
The global alcoholic beverages market was valued at $1,439 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach $1,684 billion by 2025,
That’s a lot of money.
Comment and your story
I would love to know if you have any great facts about what’s in alcohol and other interesting facts. Which fact was the most interesting and does any of it does increase your love of alcohol or vice versa. I will always get back to you.