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Alcohol by Volume & Variable Absorbtion

An interesting ABC Science article by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki crossed my Twitter feed this week – Diet drinks get you drunk faster. He writes about the relationship between the alcohol ingested by a person and the alcohol absorption through the digestive system. In short, absorption is affected by what’s going on in the small intestine.

If two identical people drank the same alcoholic beverage but one had a sugar based mixer and the other an artificial based sweetener there would be a significant difference in the alcohol absorption. Not just the rate of absorption, but also the amount of the alcohol that is absorbed from the stomach through to the blood stream.

Your stomach will push out its contents into the next section of the gut, the small intestine, at what is pretty well a fixed rate. It’s about 8-12 kilojoules per minute. The food in the stomach just has to wait until the food before it has gone ahead. In other words, the presence of food in your stomach will delay or slow down how quickly your stomach empties. Alcohol with added sugar takes longer to move along than alcohol alone (that is, without any extra calories).Karl Kruszelnicki

And the extra time the alcohol spends in the stomach waiting to be processed means that some of that alcohol is destroyed by stomach acid.

So as a mazer I’m interested in that fact for two reasons:

  1. A bottle of 12% ABV dry mead is therefore not equivalent to a bottle of 12% ABV sweet mead due to the sugars. All things being equal, the dry mead will absorb more alcohol into the bloodstream at a faster rate than the sweet mead.
  2. The consumption of food before drinking alcohol doesn’t simply slow alcohol absorption. It means less of the alcohol will make it into the bloodstream at a slower rate. Some of that alcohol will be destroyed in the stomach environment.

This is also great information to have on hand when it comes to a choice of what to mix into cocktails (beyond mere taste) depending on the wide variance of mead – dry to sweet / short to sack.

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Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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