Alcoholic Beverages And Human Responses

Alcoholic beverages are, in essence, flavored solutions of ethanol. The flavors may come from grains, as in beer; or from grapes and other fruit, as in wine; or from any source of carbohydrates, grains, sugar, or grapes, as in whiskey, mm, and brandy. In addition, consumers may add their own flavors, as lime with some beers or fruits with some wine or carbonated sodas with distilled spirits. The spectrum of flavors is wide indeed. But the purpose of drinking any of these is to supply ethanol in measured doses to the user.

Ethanol is as unique as humanity itself. It is a food but requires no digestion. It acts on many organs in the body but has no cellular receptors as do all other drugs. It is stable in the atmosphere to any chemical change, whereas all other foods will undergo some kind of decomposition. It is the only food produced solely by microbial action. It enters any cell in the body, freely, without any transport mechanism. All other foods (and all other substances except water) require a transport mechanism to enter any cell. It provides energy more rapidly than any other food.

This article inquires more closely into these and other aspects of ethanol. Although alcohol is a generic term for a large group of related substances, so common is ethanol that the term alcohol has been usurped for it and will be used here from now on to mean ethanol. So common is the drinking of alcoholic beverages that the word drink or drinker implies the drinking of alcoholic beverages and not any others.

People have always needed a release from reality. From earliest recorded history this release has come quite effectively from alcohol. It must have been discovered by accident, and probably in more than one place. It is readily produced from any saccharous source, is pleasant tasting, and not prone to any pathogenic divergence.

Whether alcohol appeared first from grapes as wine or from grain as beer or from honey as mead is not known. The catalyst that converts any of these into alcohol is ubiquitous. A recipe for beer has been found on a clay tablet from Mesopotamia some 4000 yr old. It was probably known during the new Stone Age, some 6000 yr ago. All but three or four of the many cultures that have survived to modern times knew alcohol. It is absent from polar people and Australian aborigines.

Probably the nature of the alcohol in any culture depended on the prevalence of the source. In cool northern Europe it was likely to be beer or mead. In the Near East it may have been beer or wine. In the Far East it was probably beer. In early cultures the making of alcohol was so cherished that it fell under the domain of the priest and clergy. Vestiges of this still remain in many monasteries in Europe.

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