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What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a clear, colourless liquid that is highly inflammable and has a slight burning taste. It has a boiling point of 78.3°C (173°F). Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of sugar. The sugar is decomposed by the yeast in alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Alcohol has a lot of calories

Alcohol has more calories than protein and carbohydrates but fewer calories than fat. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.

One litre of beer contains about 470 kcal and one bottle of sparkling wine (0.75litres) about 600 kcal. Just to compare; a bar of chocolate has about 530 kcal.

The problem with alcohol is that it is easy to drink a lot in one go. You are not a "real" beer drinker if you drink one a day. And it is also seldom to drink just one glass of wine.

Alcohol slows the fat metabolism of the body. Great amounts of alcohol can cause intoxication in the body. For this reason alcohol is always given priority in decomposition. In the meantime less fat is used up by the body and it is therefore stored in the fatty tissue. Therefore one could say that alcohol displaces the role of fats and carbohydrates in the body. They (fats and carbohydrates) can no longer fulfil the body's energy requirements.

In 2000, each German drank an average of:

Amount consumed

Amount of alcohol in beverage


125.5 Litres

6.0 Litres


19.5 Litres

2.1 Litres

 Sparkling  Wine

4.1 Litres

0.5 Litres


5.8 Litres

1.9 Litres

The annual calorie intake as a result of the drinking of the above alcoholic drinks is about 86,000 kcal or 235 kcal a day. This means that about 8 - 12% of dietary energy consumption is provided by alcohol. The loss of energy when storing alcohol as fat in the body is only 15%.

86,000 kcal corresponds to 12 kg of body fat.

Alcohol Consumption

About 2% of the ingested alcohol is absorbed by the oral mucosa as you are drinking. A further 20% of the consumed alcohol is absorbed through the stomach lining into the blood. The remaining alcohol is absorbed in the small intestines. For this reason, it can sometimes take a while before you notice the effects of the alcohol.

The absorption of the ingested alcohol is completed about 2 hours after consumption (resorption phase). If small amounts of alcohol are ingested it is completely absorbed after 30 - 90 minutes. The speed at which alcohol absorption takes place depends on the amount of food in the stomach as well as the type of food eaten. Alcohol is absorbed a lot quicker on an empty stomach than after a big meal. Fatty foods can delay the resorption.

The break down of alcohol in the body

The body considers alcohol as a toxic substance that needs to be removed immediately. The alcohol absorbed by the body is removed in different ways:

Up to 5% is expelled in the breath - the all too well known boozy breath.

About 2% of the ingested alcohol is excreted unchanged in the urine.

1 - 2 % of the alcohol is eliminated through perspiration.

The remaining over 90% of the consumed alcohol is broken down in the liver by oxidation and then excreted by the lungs or the kidneys. This break down of alcohol is independent from the total amount. The body is able to break down at average 0.015% of alcohol an hour.

How long does the body need to break down 0.1% of alcohol?

It takes the body about 2 hours to completely absorb the alcohol. If the body breaks down alcohol at an average rate of 0.015% an hour, it could take 6 to 7 hours before it is completely broken down.

If you decide to go partying into the early hours of the morning and you drink a lot of alcohol, it will still not be safe for you to drive the next morning. It is important to take into consideration that the break down of alcohol slows down between 12 and 6am as the metabolism generally slows down at this time. The body is then only able to break it down at about 0.009% an hour.

How can you drink less alcohol?

  • Always alternate between one glass of alcohol and one glass of water.
  • Do not be forced by others to drink more. It could help to say that you are driving.
  • If rounds are being ordered, sit out and order a coffee or any other non-alcoholic drink.
  • Non-alcoholic beer also tastes good and it does not have as many calories.
  • Do not drink alcoholic drinks to quench your thirst.
  • How many beers or glasses of wine do you drink every night in front of the television?


Effects of alcohol

Blood Alcohol Content rating < 0.02%
Less inhibited and a little bit more chatty than usual

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.03%
Vision and judgement is slightly impaired and less alert

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.05%
Noticeable reduction in reaction time, particularly to red signals, become more daring

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.08%
Balance problems set in, vision impairment, judgement and self-control are reduced

Blood Alcohol Content rating from 0.1 to 0.15%
Speech impairment increases, become more daring and aggressive

Blood Alcohol Content rating from 0.2 to 0.25%
Significant impairment of balance and coordination, speech is slurred

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.25%

Blurred vision, need help walking, double vision and forgetfulness (the famous "black out" sets in at this stage)

B lood Alcohol Content rating of 0.35%
life-threatening: coma and possible death due to respiratory arrest.

Blood Alcohol Content rating of about 0.5%
Death in most cases

Drink-Drive Limits in Germany

There are 3 different drink-drive limits for drivers.

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.03% (30 milligrams of alcohol for every 100mls of blood)
A conviction against driving or attempting to drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (§ 316 StGB) or posing a threat to ongoing traffic (§ 315c Abs. 1 StGB) is possible if driving under the influence was the cause of the accident or a dangerous traffic situation.

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.05% (50 milligrams of alcohol for every 100mls of blood)
A driver can be prosecuted for a regulatory offence according to § 24a Abs, if the breath test reveals a blood alcohol level of if 0.25 mg/l even if the driver has not committed a driving offence. The 0.08% drink-drive limit no longer applies in Germany . This regulation lost its validity on 1.4.2001.

Blood Alcohol Content rating of 0.11% (110 milligrams of alcohol for every 100mls of blood)
With a blood alcohol content rating of 0.11% one should not attempt to drive. A driver is liable to prosecution if he/she drives with this blood alcohol content for driving under the influence (§ 316 StGB) or if an accident is caused or almost caused (§ 315c Abs. 1 StGB).

How much is 0.05% alcohol?

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is given as a percentage. A BAC rating of 0.05% means 50 milligrams of alcohol for every 100ml of blood.

Alcohol and Health

Alcohol can be addictive. About 4.5 million Germans are either alcoholics or abuse alcohol. That is 5% of the population. About 21% of alcoholics are women. About 45, 000 people die annually either directly or indirectly related to the excessive consumption of alcohol.

If alcohol is consumed regularly it can damage:

  • the vitamin and potassium supply. Alcohol causes vitamin deficiencies, in particular vitamin B complexes.
  • the digestive and metabolic organs, especially the liver, the pancreas and the stomach
  • the cardiovascular system
  • the mucosa membranes. The alcohol irritates the mucosa and makes it prone to infection.
  • libido and fertility
  • the peripheral nerves and the brain cells.

Furthermore there is an increased risk in getting cancer in the mouth and throat region, larynx, oesophagus and the pancreas.

Consuming a lot of alcohol can cause you to put on a lot of weight as it contains a lot of calories. 10 to 20% of the consumed calories of an adult come from alcohol.

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Alcohol reaches the foetus via the placenta. Alcohol can cause a loss in weight, growth problems, abnormalities as well as physical and mental defects. 1 in 300 babies born annually in Germany is severely handicapped as a result of alcohol consumption. Pregnant women should therefore not drink alcohol.


The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine, Michael Kuhar

Overcoming Your Alcohol, Drug & Recovery Habits: An Empowering Alternative to AA and 12-Step Treatment

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