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Factors that influence alcohol metabolism

| Sep 4, 2018 | OVI |

One of the more common questions people in Columbus have regarding the issue of drunk driving is how many drinks will cause them to become intoxicated? Many hope this will help them know exactly then they will feel drunk. Unfortunately, there truly is no general answer to the question of how much alcohol will cause one to become drunk. That is because people’s bodies metabolize alcohol differently. 

Information shared by the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education of Stanford University lists the following as factors that influence alcohol metabolism rates: 

  • Body composition
  • Medications
  • Stomach contents
  • Medical conditions
  • The manner in which one drinks

Even one’s gender or genetic makeup can play a hand in how his or her body responds to alcohol consumption. This is largely due to the process through which the body breaks down alcohol. 

Per The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership, two enzymes in the body are primarily responsible for metabolizing alcohol. The first is alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH). This oxidizes alcohol and turns it into acetaldehyde. The ADH gene found in the stomach (ADH7) is credited for metabolizing as much as 30 percent of any ethanol alcohol one consumes before it passes into the bloodstream. Interestingly, females do not express the ADH7 gene in their stomachs (it is there, yet it is not translated into protein). For this reason, women in general can be more sensitive to alcohol intoxication. 

The acetaldehyde formed by the ADH gene is particularly toxic, and thus must be detoxified into acetic acid by the acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzyme. Half of all people of Oriental descent inherit an ALDH allele that is nonfunctional, meaning that their bodies are literally incapable of metabolizing acetaldehyde. Because of this, those in this particular demographic experience increased sickness and a rapid heart rate when they consume alcohol. 

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