Stories tagged alcohol consumption

Sep
09
2008

That hint of a smile?: That's from the happy memories. Those people in the background? Those are the bad memories getting ready.
That hint of a smile?: That's from the happy memories. Those people in the background? Those are the bad memories getting ready.Courtesy Bistrosavage
Scientists have discovered what I’m calling a magic potion that has the remarkable affect of strengthening memories you acquire before drinking it, and weakening the recollection of events that occur afterwards.

The name of this potion? We call it whisky.

We also call it beer, wine, and liquor of all stripes. Indeed, we call it alcohol.

What’s new here? Time and time again, we wake up wearing women’s clothing (or not wearing women’s clothing) and we think, “Sure, I’m wearing a dress, but how exactly did this happen? The last thing I remember is drinking some sort of magic potion…” The effects of alcohol on the memories of what happens afterwards are pretty well documented, even if the memories themselves aren’t. What’s new is the finding that consuming alcohol seems to reinforce memories formed before drinking. Memories like, “this is a sharp new pair of men’s slacks I’m wearing,” or “it doesn’t look like I’m going to embarrass myself tonight.”

Although the specific mechanisms through which alcohol affects memory are still not fully understood, the research works pretty well in explaining why people tend to continue drinking even if they’ve had bad experiences with it in the past—pleasant memories associated with pre-drinking time, like socializing with friends, are very strong, while the less enjoyable experiences after drinking, like struggling to unlock what may or may not be the door to your own apartment, quickly fade away.

The findings also seem to correspond with a study I did a post on last year regarding sad, drunk rats. The major difference, as far as I can see, has to do with the fact that rats very rarely wear women’s clothing. (I assume this is only because of the scarcity of specialty stores.)

Jul
30
2008

Bud-weis-er: Tree shrews of Malayia have been found to go on two-hour benders each night, drinking "palm beer" from the fermented nectar of palm trees in the rain forests. And they don't even have a hangover the next morning.
Bud-weis-er: Tree shrews of Malayia have been found to go on two-hour benders each night, drinking "palm beer" from the fermented nectar of palm trees in the rain forests. And they don't even have a hangover the next morning.Courtesy S. Karthikeyan
Where are the places that you find high amounts of alcohol consumption? College campuses, sea ports that host sailor shore leaves, NFL stadium parking lots. Now add the Malaysian rain forest to that mix.

It seems that the tiny pen-tailed tree shrew can drink any and all of its larger mammalian cohorts under the table. In fact, life is just one long happy hour for this little creature.

The shrews have a steady diet of “palm beer,” a fermented concoction that occurs in the nectar of flowers of the Bertram palm. Scientists have measured the alcohol content to the “palm beer” to be 3.8 percent, about the same level as most brewed beers.

Through their research, scientists have found the shrews spend about two hours a night guzzling their “palm beer.” And by testing hair samples of the critters, they’ve discovered the beer is their primary food source and that their alcohol consumption is at a rate that would likely kill other mammals.

But don’t set up an intervention and head the pen-tailed shrews off to a 12-step program just yet. Over their 55 million years of existence, they’ve developed a tolerance to alcohol that allows them to have normal functionality despite their heavy beer intake. After all, a drunk shrew is going to be pretty easy pickings for a larger predator. It appears that the shrews have developed a fast-paced metabolism to be able to handle their beer intake with little effect.

So keep this in mind if you’re hosting a kegger any time soon. The more pen-tailed tree shrews you invite, the more beer you’re going to need to have on hand.

Dec
20
2007

Is this your medicine cabinate?: Recent studies show that moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent you from catching a cold, but it won't cure you once you have one.
Is this your medicine cabinate?: Recent studies show that moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent you from catching a cold, but it won't cure you once you have one.Courtesy brosner
Here’s some interesting news to consider in advance of your New Year’s Eve celebration. Moderate drinking of alcohol could help keep away the common cold.

A recent study found a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing a cold among people who drank eight to 14 glasses of wine per week. Especially effective in preventing colds was the consumption of red wine. However, the study only looked at the linkages between alcohol consumption and cold risk. It didn’t go into the reasons why alcohol use could diminish the chances of getting a cold. Some researchers surmise that wine may have particular antioxidant properties that help fend off colds.

The findings of this study, conducted back in 2002, were resurrected after a report earlier this week in the New York Times that completely quashed the concept that drinking alcoholic beverages can help cure a cold.

That research showed that no study has ever been able to show that alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream can kill germs. The effects of alcohol consumption may relieve cold symptoms, but they won’t cure your cold. And since most alcoholic beverages will dehydrate you, they more likely will prolong any cold symptoms that you’re dealing with.

Sep
30
2007

Drowning his sorrows: Sorry, little buddy, but it won't work.  (Photo courtesy of AlexK100 on flickr.com)
Drowning his sorrows: Sorry, little buddy, but it won't work. (Photo courtesy of AlexK100 on flickr.com)
Scientists are giving alcohol to little ratsies and discovering that drinking may, in fact, strengthen memory. At first glance, this flies in the face of hundreds of years of college students waking up with skinned knees, burned fingers, and mystery bruises, and then wondering how they possibly could have obtained them, but the methods employed by Ohio State researchers are hilarious enough, in a casual cruelty kind of way, that one has to take notice.

The researchers found that moderate consumption of alcohol seems to benefit memory, while the consumption of large amounts tends to impair it, except in situations involving “heightened emotion.”

These conclusions were reached by giving rats liquid food solutions containing 0, 2.5, or 5 percent alcohol. According to their report, “the lower dose of alcohol is equivalent to a couple of glasses of wine a day and produces blood-alcohol levels well below typical legal driving limits. The higher dose gave the rats equivalent blood-alcohol levels well above the driving limits.”

I wasn’t aware rats were even legally able to drive in the first place, but, then again, I’ve never been to Ohio.

The moderate drinking rats were found to have improved “neutral” memory (like the ability to recall the location of objects), as well as “emotional” memory (the emotional incident apparently being an electric shock to the foot). The heavy drinking rats were less able to remember the location of objects, but recalled the emotional memory (electrocution) very well.

The researchers think that the benefit of moderate drinking may be from the brain sensing the alcohol as a mild injury, and becoming stronger as a response – sort of like physical exercise, where muscles are challenged and then strengthen.

Apparently the idea of “drinking to forget” only works if you’re a very committed drinker, and even then you probably won’t forget your divorce. Finding your keys will be more difficult, though.

This all, of course, leaves the rats in something of a bind. With self-medication out of the picture, one wonders how they’re supposed to deal with the boozy food, as well as the constant electrocutions and memory tests. Talk therapy might be less than adequate.

Sep
28
2007

Cancer causer?: A new European study is showing stronger links between daily alcohol consumption by women and their risk for breast cancer. (Flickr photo by wildflowers)
Cancer causer?: A new European study is showing stronger links between daily alcohol consumption by women and their risk for breast cancer. (Flickr photo by wildflowers)
Sometimes we write summaries of studies that have a very limited sampling of participants. Here’s one that’s more robust, and seems to have some startling news with it.

Heavy to moderate drinking of alcohol can hike up risks of developing breast cancer significantly, according to a study presented in Spain this week. The study followed the drinking habits and cancer incidences of 70,000 women.

In more detail, the study shows that women to had one or two drinks a day increased their risk for breast cancer by 10 percent. Those who drank three or more alcoholic beverages a day saw their breast cancer risks jump 30 percent.

And according to the study, it really didn’t matter what kind of alcohol was consumed: beer, wine or spirits. The European study also jives closely with the results of a 10-year study that’s been conducted in the San Francisco area which also is looking at the alcohol/breast cancer connection.

The findings fly counter to the health benefits that other studies have shown for drinking one glass a wine a day. Several studies have shown that a regular, minimal intake of wine each day can help decrease coronary problems.

Researchers in the European study acknowledge that female drinkers could be getting conflicting messages from the various studies. And they conclude that individual women should consider their family history with cancer and heart problems when deciding how often and how much they drink, particularly wine.

Scientists don't yet know why alcohol affects breast cancer.

Interested in more recent breast cancer developments? Read about this new cancer detection bra being developed in the U.K.