August 28, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Alcohol and the Battle of the Sexes

Is it true that women get drunk quicker than men because they are smaller and have more body fat?

-- Luke Rington
Orlando, FL

Although this has long been the laymen's explanation for why women often get drunk more quickly than men, it couldn't be further from the truth.

As an answer, it is rather simplistic, erroneously assuming that all women are smaller and have more body fat than all men. I have seen my share of short, stout men to know this can't possibly be true!

Besides, if you compared a man and a woman are similar in height and weight, you'll find that after the same amount of drinks, the woman gets intoxicated more quickly than her male counterpart.

For the real answer, we must travel to the stomach and say "hello" to an enzyme named dehydrogenase.

Dehydrogenase is quite the efficient enzyme, breaking down some alcohol in our stomachs (the rest is metabolized in our livers) to help lower the amount that eventually travels into our bloodstream and affects our motor skills (and places 'beer goggles' over our eyes).

What does this enzyme have to do with our question?

Well, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that women have lower levels of dehydrogenase, which translates to approximately 25% more alcohol from each drink going into their bloodstream when compared to men.

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