Monday, January 24, 2011

Alcohol, Tea, Metabolism, and Fat Guys

Fat Guy from Feb 2011 Scientific American
Note the blobby folds of skin.
Recently Chemical and Engineering News ran a story about how cheese eaten with wine took twice as long to digest as cheese eaten with black tea.  It seems that the effect is not due to the alcohol, but rather to the tea's speeding up the digestion of the fatty fondue.

Strangely, black tea inhibits enzymes that digest starch. Tea drinking would help digest fat, but prevent starchy foods from hitting the bloodsteam too fast -- both good things in that fast starch digestion will cause an insulin spike, and rapid hunger later.  There are lots of websites that claim green tea causes weight loss, but I don't think the sources are very credible.

Alcohol does seem to cause weight-loss -- strange as that seems considering its high calorie density. First it seems the calories in alcohol are not as accessible as other foods, so some passes through the body undigested. Second alcohol prevents your body from digesting other food. Consider the skinny alcoholic who consumes enough calories in alcohol to live on that alone, but is skinny. The alcohol is empickling his organs preventing them from functioning.

The fat guy at right is here to illustrate fatness, and he is pretty gross -- specially gross is the size of his love handles. Who thought they could grow into little appendages?

The graph at left shows blood alcohol content versus time. It shows people sobering up after drinking.

Notice how the declining lines are parallel -- meaning alcohol is metabolized at a constant rate. Regardless of how much is in the blood. This is because the limiting step is the amount of alcohol dehydrogenase there. The absolute rate varies from person to person perhaps with a genetic component.

Alcohol is actually oxidized to an acetaldehyde and then to acetate. Acetate is a common molecule in the body and has many uses.

It is interesting to note that each drink takes two hours to clear the blood stream. In regard to getting drunk in the first place, the more you drink the faster it gets in the bloodstream.