When we see alcohol, calories is one thing that comes to mind. However not much information is around on why this is. I have done a bit of research and found some interesting things out about it. It does get a bit complicated, but I have decided to publish what I have found out below.
Alcohol or ethanol is one of humans earliest ventures into value added processing, and is broken down from starch or sugar based feed stocks. In beers case, usually barley, wheat or Rye. In other words, alcohol is made from organic compounds in the sense that it comes from a living source.
This means the carbons, oxygen and hydrogen atoms it contains are bound in ways that are somewhat accessible to be broken down by living things. In the chemical structure of alcohol (ethanol), there are a lot of carbon-carbon (C-C) or carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bonds. These bonds hold lots of ‘energy’ that organisms can utilize. Similar kinds of bonds are seen in glucose, which is well known to be one of the purest forms of energy accessible to living things.
The specific enzymes which will break down ethanol are;
- Alcohol dehydrgenase, which will turn the ethanol into acetylaldehyde.
- Adetylaldehyde dehydrogenase then turns it into acetate.
- Acetate is a very easily used molecule (Acetyl-CoA). It is a direct breakdown product of the sugar metabolism, which gives us the energy we use. The end product of the metabolism is carbon dioxide, meaning we have burnt all the carbons for its energy. This is the CO2 we exhale.
The reason it contains so many calories is because we drink a highly concentrated amount of it. Whole milk is about 4% fat. Imagine drinking 40%, (which is what most hard liquors will have). That would be very fatty! The same applies to alcohol. That’s 40% of a beverage that can be broken down into energy which is a lot of calories. Fat is a much richer energy source than alcohol, however the 6% alcohol content in beer will soon add up after 3 or 4 over the coarse of a night.
In other words, what this research is saying is that alcohol can be accessed as energy very easily by the body. The more the percentage of alcohol in the drink, the more the calories there will be. I hope this goes some way into helping explain the workings of alcohol and the body…….