Wine and being drunk

Why do some people get drunk faster than others - BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) explained

tipsy girl

Why do some people get drunk on one glass of wine, whilst others can drink many and not feel too tipsy? How drunk you feel is dependent on the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). BAC is impacted by several factors:

  • % alcohol in the drink and volume drunk.
  • The amount of water in the body. The person with more water in their body gets less drunk since it dilutes the effects of the alcohol. It is dependent on your body volume and the proportion of fat to muscle. There is much more water in muscle than fat, so the more muscle you have the better. A typical adult has 30 litres - 70 litres of water in their body, so someone only having 30 litres will feel the effects of alcohol quickly, whereas someone with the higher levels of water will need significantly more to feel the same effects. Don't get dehydrated on a night out, drink plenty of water with your wine or beer.  As well as meaning you feel less drunk, you'll probably have less of a hangover if you over indulge!
  • Genetic factors. The main method that the body metabolises or breaks down alcohol is dependent on two enzymes: Alcohol dehydrogenase which first converts alcohol into acetaldehyde and Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) which breaks down acetaldehyde into harmless by-products.Due to genetic differences, 80 per cent of Asians have an overactive alcohol dehydrogenase. This means they break down alcohol into acetaldehyde up to 100 times faster than other races such as caucasians. Since alcohol is broken down faster they can have little to no alcohol effect However,most Asians have an inactive variant of the liver enzyme ALDH2 that means that acetaldehyde takes a much longer to clear from their blood and this causes a phenomenon called "Asian Flush" which causes reddening of the face, sweating and palpitations. Males have more of these enzymes than females,particularly in the stomach. So men can break down alcohol faster than women. 
  • Food in the stomach. Eating before or during drinking slows down the passage of alcohol into the small intestine. If alcohol is kept longer in the stomach, enzymes have more of a chance to break it down and less is absorbed and more slowly if it is delayed from going into the small intestine where it passes into the blood stream more quickly. A fatty meal is particularly good before you out or eat cured meats and cheese Italian/Spanish style whilst you have that glass of wine.

Remember it takes around one hour in males and females for the body to clear one unit of alcohol. Drinking coffee or getting fresh air doesn't make any difference how quickly the alcohol is broken down in the body.