What is Alcohol?

Ethanol is best described as a carbohydrate molecule with the following structure: CH3-CH2-OH. So, as we can see, it is a Carbohydrate.

However, unlike other Carbohydrates that have 4 calories per gram, Ethanol has 7! Yes, does goes for your vodka-soda too. Sorry to be the bearer of the bad news.

Apart from the first step it the metabolism of sugar, in case of Ethanol yeast does this (fermentation), the chemical processes thereafter are very similar to metabolism of sugar.

We have 2 enzymes that break down ethanol (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans have a variation in this enzyme making this process more difficult – hence they have less tolerance to it).

The chemical breakdown is:
Ethanol to Acetal aldehyde to- Acetate – which enters the mitochondria and makes energy via Acetyl COA with toxic by-products along the way. These by-products have been correlated with cancer, fatty Liver disease, Obesity and many more. Furthermore, not only is it high in calories and causes toxicity, but it also inhibits the absorption of other nutrients, when consumed together.
This doesn’t mean they won’t get absorbed at all, but it does mean it will slow
down the absorption of your proteins.

Take home message:

  • Alcohol has 7ccal/g
  • It slows doen the absorption of other nutrients
  • Will decrease performance and cognitive abilities, albeit to different extents based on bio-individuality and genes /gene expression
  • When your intake is excessive or slows down GABA (a neurotransmitter) that basically slows down your brain

Alcohol research & health, vol 29, number 4, 2006.
Matejcic et al, Carcinogenesis, 2006
Friel et al., Variability of ethanol absorption, 1995