Alcohol: A Dangerous Toxin Foreign to Human Bodies?
Is alcohol a dangerous toxin foreign to our bodies?
Quite to the contrary. Every living human body continuously produces ethanol (beverage alcohol) 24/7. It's called endogenous ethanol production. Human life does not exist without the presence of alcohol.
Microorganisms in our digestive system constantly convert sugar into carbon dioxide gas and ethanol. The quantity of alcohol produced depends on our diet, but can reach about an ounce of "pure" alcohol per day. That's equivalent to almost two alcoholic drinks: two beers, two glasses of wine, or two shots of whiskey.
Our belief that alcohol is a poison and foreign to our bodies is based in our temperance past. The United States imposed National Prohibition for almost 14 years (1920-1933) and we are currently experiencing significant neo-prohibition sentiment.
Temperance activists disregarded scientific knowledge and, instead, made many clearly absurd assertions:
Consider these ridiculous assertions:
- Alcohol is the dirtiest drug we have. It permeates and damages all tissue. No other drug can cause the same degree of harm that it does.
- Alcohol is harmful to the body.
- Alcohol is a poison, and drinking it (no level of consumption indicated) might lead to death.
- Alcohol is toxic (no level of consumption indicated).
- The effects of alcohol on men (no level of consumption indicated) are that hormone levels change, causing lower sex drive and enlarged breasts.
- Alcohol (no level of consumption indicated) can cause deterioration of the heart muscle.
Incredibly, all these statements, which are very misleading at best, were not made by prohibitionists of old but by officials representing governmental agencies of today. Significantly, the comments are not based on scientific evidence but instead seem to reflect a neo-prohibitionist effort to stigmatize alcohol.
It is the current federal government policy to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages among American adults. A deputy director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) even publicly asserted that there is no such thing as responsible drinking.
Instead of stigmatizing alcohol and trying to scare people into abstaining, we need to recognize that it is not alcohol itself but rather the misuse of alcohol that is the problem.
The vast majority of American adults who consume alcohol do so in moderation with no ill effects. Indeed, the moderate consumption of alcohol (beer, wine and spirits) is strongly associated with better health and greater longevity than is either abstaining from alcohol or abusing it. Some toxin!
The stigmatization of alcohol is dangerously counterproductive in the effort to promote the moderate and healthful consumption of alcohol by those adults who choose to drink and for whom it is not contraindicated by pregnancy or other reason.
Alcohol is a natural part of human life.
Readings on Endogenous Ethanol Production:
- Chuhrova, M. and Timofeyev, I. Synthesis of endogenous ethanol during treatment of alcoholic dependence. European Psychiatry, 2002, 17(1), 191.
- Jones, A.W. Concentration of endogenous ethanol in blood and CSF. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 1994, 89(2), 159-150.
- Lester, D. The concentration of apparent endogenous ethanol.
Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1962, 23, 17-25.
- Logan, B.K and Jones, A.W. Endogenoius ethanol production in a child with short gut syndrome. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 2003, 36(3), 419-420.
- Logan, B.K. and Jones, A.W. Endogenous ethanol "auto-brewery syndrome" as a drunk-driving defence challenge. Medicine, Science and the Law, 2000, 40(3), 106-215.
- McManus, I.R., Contag, A.O., and Olson,R.E. Characterization of endogenousethanol in the mammal. Science, 1960, 131, 3393.
- Nikolaenko, V.N. Maintenance of homeostasis of endogenous ethanol as a method for the therapy of alcoholism. Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2001, 131(3), 231-233.
- Ostrovsky, Y.M. Endogenous ethanol - its metabolic, behavioral and biomedical significance. Alcohol, 1986, 3(4), 239-247.
- Perminova, N., Chuhrova, M., and Timofeyev, I. Endogenous ethanol and microbe associations at Patients with alcoholic dependence. European Psychiatry, 2002, 17 (Supp. 1) 213.
- Phillips, M. and Greenberg, J. Detection of endogenous ethanol and other compounds in the breath by gas chromatography with on-column concentration of sample. Analytical Biochemistry, 1987, 163(1), 165-169.