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Scientific Truths about Imbibing Wine

1. Food does not absorb alcohol, but food in the stomach does slow absorption. Fatty foods are especially effective in slowing down alcohol absorption as they are more difficult to digest.

2. Higher alcohol wines overwhelm the ADH enzymes in the stomach causing more rapid absorption of alcohol. For example a 15% alcohol wine will be absorbed more quickly than a 12% alcohol wine.

3. 75%-80% of ingested alcohol is absorbed by the small intestine because of its very large surface area, and 20%-25% is absorbed from the stomach in a fasting individual.

4. Women reach higher blood alcohol concentrations (BAC’s) faster because they have less water in their bodies, more adipose tissue (fat) that is not easily penetrated by alcohol, and less muscle tissue and thus less blood to dilute the alcohol. A man and woman, with all other factors being equal, both drinking the same amount of wine will have different BAC levels with hers being higher. Women experience their highest BAC’s pre-menstruation.

5. Experienced drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol since regular drinking causes the liver to break down alcohol more efficiently.

6. Drinking coffee, exercising, and cold showers do not influence the amount of impairment caused by alcohol. Time is the only way to sober up. Alcohol is removed from the bloodstream by the liver at a relatively constant rate of about 1 drink per hour. A person with a BAC of 0.08% takes more than 5 hours to become completely sober.

7. More than 90% of ingested alcohol is oxidized in the liver by the enzyme ADH to acetic acid, a normal nontoxic metabolite, with small amounts oxidized in stomach. The rest is excreted unchanged in the sweat, urine or breath.

8. A full bottle of wine contains 5 to 7 drinks depending on the wine’s ABV. To determine the number of drinks in a particular bottle of wine, multiple 750 ml by the alcohol percentage divided by 17.7. For example, a bottle of 13.0% wine will contain 5.5 drinks while a bottle of 16% alcohol will contain 6.8 drinks.

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