Enjoying beer without consequences

Scientists at ETH Zurich have developed a means of preventing the harmful effects of alcohol. The result is a protein gel with nanoparticles that breaks down alcohol before it can do any harm. 

Alcohol degradation

The breakdown of alcohol in the human body mainly takes place in the liver. A special enzyme converts ethanol, the main component of alcohol, into acetaldehyde. This substance is toxic and causes hangovers, for example. Further enzymatic processes then convert acetaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide, which the body can easily excrete. The rate of degradation varies from person to person and is influenced by genetic factors as well as gender, age and weight. 

The new gel

The Zurich researchers' gel breaks down alcohol in the gastrointestinal tract. In other words, before the alcohol enters the bloodstream. The gel turns alcohol into acetic acid, which is far less harmful to the body than acetaldehyde. The process has been successfully tested on mice, but clinical trials on humans have not yet been carried out.

Alcohol consumption without intoxication

It is well known that many people drink alcoholic beverages to get drunk. However, intoxication is caused by the absorption and effect of ethanol (alcohol) on the central nervous system. The alcohol must enter the bloodstream. 

Consequently, the appeal of the Zurich development could lie in the area of “pleasure drinking”, suitable for people who reach for beer for the pleasure of the taste - beer with alcohol. The trend towards non-alcoholic beer points to a conscious approach to alcoholic beverages. Perhaps the new gel is ideal for preserving our beer culture - with its love of “real” beer. 

Although the gel could help to lower blood alcohol levels, the healthiest approach to alcohol is probably one of moderation and/or abstinence.  

Source: nature technology 
Photo: AdobeStock - Mirko Vitali