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Alcohol

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Alcohol museum.jpg

Alcohol is an organic compound created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Fermentation is used to produce many necessary items — everything from cheese to medications. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative. [1] Alcohol has a history from many different and diverse cultures. These cultures have spanned into the modern age. The ancient cultures respected alcohol, but now people have begun to abuse its effects.

History

A Revolutionary War distiller.

No one is sure of how old the making of alcohol really is. The earliest recording of a civilization making and drinking wine, a variation of alcohol, was found in ancient Egyptians pictographs in 4,000 B.C. although new evidence shows that a beer jugs found were dated to be around the Stone Age era. Alcohol has been found in many various ancient cultures: Egyptian, Hebrew, Babylonian, Chinese, Greek, Persian, and Roman. Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures incorporated alcohol into their religious beliefs by having a god of the drink such as the Greek Dionysus and the Roman Bacchus. Alcohol, mostly wine, was used in many types of religious ceremonies. The Chinese believed that alcohol was a mental food rather than a physical food. This belief led to people using alcohol as a source of inspiration, an antidote for fatigue, and an instrument for hospitality. A Chinese imperial edict of about 1,116 B.C. makes it clear that the use of alcohol in moderation was believed to be prescribed by heaven and provided a substantial input for the Chinese treasury. The use of alcohol and the traditional belief that there was a god of alcohol contributed to rich cultures with extensive history. [2]

How Alcohol is Made

Alcohol is made through a process called fermentation. Fermentation is the process when sugar is broken down by yeast and produces ethyl alcohol, carbon dioxide and energy.

C6H12O6 ====> 2(CH3CH2OH) + 2(CO2) + Energy (which is stored in ATP)

Sugar ====> Alcohol + Carbon dioxide gas + Energy[3]

Uses

Ethyl alcohol is derived from two main processes, hydration of ethylene and fermentation of sugars. Hydration of ethylene is the primary method for the industrial production of ethyl alcohol, while fermentation is the primary method for production of beverage alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is commonly used in chemistry because it is easy to make and has many usable properties. [4]

Common Names

 Chemical Formula   IUPAC Name   Common Name 
Monohydric alcohols
CH3OH Methanol Wood alcohol
C2H5OH Ethanol Grain alcohol
C5H11OH Pentanol Amyl alcohol
C16H33OH Hexadecan-1-ol Cetyl alcohol
Polyhydric alcohols
C2H4(OH)2 Ethane-1 ,2-diol Ethylene glycol
C3H5(OH)3 Propane-1 ,2,3-triol Glycerin
C4H6(OH)4 Butane-1 ,2,3,4-tetraol Erythritol
C5H7(OH)5 Pentane-1 ,2,3,4,5-pentol Xylitol
C6H8(OH)6 Hexane-1 ,2,3,4,5,6-hexol Mannitol, Sorbitol
Unsaturated aliphatic alcohols
C3H5OH Prop-2-ene-1-ol Allyl alcohol
C10H17OH 3,7-Dimethylocta-2,6-dien-1-ol Geraniol
C3H3OH Prop-2-in-1-ol Propargyl alcohol
Alicyclic alcohols
C6H6(OH)6 Cyclohexane-1 ,2,3,4,5,6-geksol Inositol
C10H19OH 2 - (2-propyl)-5-methyl-cyclohexane-1-ol Menthol

Non-Scientific Uses

Barrels of wine in a cellar.

Alcohol is more commonly used in a non-scientific way. There are many types of alcohol from different ways of distilling alcohol.

Wine - Grapes or other fruits are crushed and placed into vats where the yeast is added. The yeast converts the fruit juice into alcohol and the larger chunks from the left over fruits. The fermented grape juice is then put into wooden caskets and allowed to age. Wine is the oldest type of alcohol to be brewed and is often considered a high class drink.

Beer - Grains, which have been malted (allowed to sprout and then immediately heated) are mashed and soaked (brewed) to allow the starches in the grain to convert to sugar. The brew is then fermented with yeast and later flavored (and preserved) with hops, a bitter flower that balances the sweetness of the malt. Beer is a common alcoholic drink in the United States of America.

Rum - Fermented molasses or sugar cane is distilled, allowed to age for at least 3 years and is often blended. Rum was once outlawed in Europe and smuggled by pirates.

Whisky - Whisky is distilled from fermented juice from malted barley, corn or rye and then allowed to age. Whisky was made famous as the drink of cowboys in the Wild West.

Vodka - 100 percent alcohol is distilled from fermented potatoes or grain. The alcohol is then watered down to about 40-50 percent. The liquid is filtered through charcoal to neutralize the flavor and aroma. Vodka was classified as a main Russian drink.

Gin - Distilled liquor is flavored (usually with juniper berries and various herbs) and distilled again until it reaches 40-50 percent alcohol content. Making gin is a rather natural process. [5]

Abuse & Addiction

Alcohol is a drug. The ethanol found in alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol usually enters the body through the mouth and travels into the stomach. In the stomach, some of the alcohol gets into the bloodstream in the stomach, but most goes on to the small intestine where is the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. The bloodstream brings the alcohol by the pumping of the heart. The heart then pumps the alcohol to the brain where it causes inhibition of coordination, depth perception, reflexes, judgment, and vision. The liver is the main processor of alcohol. It oxidizes the alcohol at a rate of about 0.5 oz per hour. Alcohol is converted into water, carbon dioxide and energy.[6]

Each person is made differently and these differences contribute how alcohol will affect them. A body may be able to take a whole lot of alcohol before any of the effects take hold or they might only need to take one, single drink to make a person tipsy. Teenagers are more likely to be addicted to alcohol because the young liver metabolizes alcohol much faster than an older person's liver.[7]

There are many warning signs of alcoholism.

  • needing a drink to start the day
  • chronic hangovers
  • making excuses for drinking
  • frequently absent from school or work
  • sneaking extra drinks or gulping them[7]

If you or someone you love is an alcoholic, please contact Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc for information that will help you.

An AA logo for Greece.


Health Benefits

Alcohol, in moderation, can actually be a health benefit. Various studies from many different countries have all found that moderate drinking or any alcoholic beverage (mostly red wine due to its high antioxidant content) can be an actual plus rather than a hindrance. A French study found that people who drank daily in moderation were less likely to develop dementia than nondrinkers and those who only had one drink each week. Certain studies have suggested those who drink moderately cut their risk of developing gallstones by about 50%. Moderate drinking reduces the risk of both heart disease and death by heart attack; studies have found variable risk reduction rates, ranging from 25% (various studies) to 40% (Nurses’ Health Study-a longitudinal study of 85,709 nurses). Moderate drinkers have a 70% reduced risk for ischemic strokes, a leading cause of disability and death. However, heavy drinking increases the risk of suffering ischemic strokes. There are some indications that moderate drinking may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes; however, consuming large quantities of alcohol actually increases the risk for this condition. A national (U.S.) study found that moderate drinkers are more likely to get enough sleep each night, exercise regularly and be at a healthy weight than nondrinkers and heavy drinkers. So, despite the higher risk of alcohol as a drug, moderation in drinking can have very positive benefits. [8]

References

  1. Alcohol 1995-2011 The Nemours Foundation
  2. History of Alcohol and Drinking around the World by David J. Hanson, Ph.D. 1997-2011
  3. Alcoholic fermentation by yeast cells www.yobrew.co.uk 1999-2011
  4. Alcohol, Chemistry and You: Sources and Uses of Ethyl Alcohol by Dr. Bill Boggan 2003 Kennesaw State University
  5. Various Types of Alcohol by Michael Joseph Hall; 1999-2011 Demand Media, Inc.
  6. Neuroscience For Kids 1996-2011, Eric H. Chudler
  7. 7.0 7.1 Learn The Facts: What do you know about alcohol? 1997 Syndistar, Inc.
  8. Health Benefits of Alcohol Jennifer Copley, Accessed: May 20, 2011