Imagine if you could drink a six pack of beer and never feel drunk. You could be the ultimate beer pong player or perhaps the envy of your fraternity. According to Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams, it is possible to do just by eating one special thing before each beer.
Yeast. That’s supposedly the trick. Apparently by eating about one teaspoon of dry run-of-the-mill yeast from the grocery store before each beer will nearly ensure you won’t become drunk. Of course, every person is different so don’t use it as an excuse to drink and drive!
How does it work? To explain, let’s go through the typical route of alcohol when you drink a beer. First, of course, you pop open a beer and it goes down the hatch. First the alcohol encounters your stomach. Nothing really happens to the alcohol here. if there’s a ot of food in your stomach or even just other liquids, the alcohol will be diluted. The dilution basically acts as a time release pill. This just means that it will take a little extra time for the alcohol to reach your bloodstream and for you to feel drunk. The alcohol then enters the small intestine where it goes through the portal vein and into the bloodstream.
Once in your bloodstream the alcohol will eventually make it to your brain – causing you to feel drunk – and also to your liver. The liver is where the “magic” happens. The liver contains an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) along with a coenzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) that help break down alcohol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde will further break down into acetate. Neither acetaldehyde nor acetate will make you drunk.
If you could catch all the alcohol and break it down in your stomach, before it ever enters the small intestine and hence your bloodstream, then you could theoretically drink as much as you want and never get drunk. That’s the concept that eating yeast before a beer works on. The only difference is the method doesn’t allow you to catch all the alcohol, but a small portion of it.
See, yeast contains ADH and NAD just like your liver. It will break down alcohol into acetaldehyde too. Since the yeast are in your stomach, they intercept some of the alcohol before it enters your bloodstream. That means you will likely be able to drink a bit more than usual without becoming drunk. A gentleman by the name of Dr. Joseph L. Owades did a great deal of research into using this method to reduce a person’s blood alcohol level when he or she was drinking. In fact, he even patented the method (See Dr. Owades’ patent here). Dr. Owades even found that easting yeast before consuming a drink will decrease someone’s blood alcohol content by ~25% compared to drinking without consuming yeast beforehand.
The method of eating yeast to prevent becoming drunk was recently popularized by an article (or should I say articles) revealing Jim Koch’s “secret” to drinking a lot of beer and not becoming drunk (Read one of the original articles here). As with any article exposing some unconventional claims, there has been much controversy surrounding the subject.
Some people argue that because the stomach has a pH that typically ranges between 0.5 and 5, depending on when someone ate/drank, it is unlikely that ADH would function in the stomach. Biological enzymes usually have an operational pH range and ADH’s range is near a neutral pH (pH ~7). In fact, another study (read here) found that ADH has almost no activity below a pH of 5.9. Is it debunked then?! Nope. Dr. Owades found a true scientific correlation between consuming yeast and a person’s blood alcohol level. Therefore, it is likely that the enzyme is still able to function in the stomach. A plausible explanation is that ADH is contained within the yeast cell. While the yeast may die upon contact with stomach acid, the yeast cell may not immediately break. In that case, alcohol is able to freely pass through the yeast cell wall. Inside the cell the pH is roughly neutral and ADH would be able to function normally. Of course, this is simply a hypothesis. Dr. Owades himself never actually claimed to know the exact mechanism.
Let us know your thoughts/doubts about eating yeast to avoid becoming drunk!
[Image Credit] quinndombrowski