A Question You Don’t Want Answered
Now that we’re approaching the ‘holiday season’ (I consider it to start at Halloween), recreational drinking usually begins to rise. Being that I am a person who is passionate about alcohol, I always look forward to this time of year. But it’s because I view alcohol as a passion that I try to govern its consumption by not taking it for granted. I recently came off of a week of alcohol abstention, which is something that I do on a semi-regular basis in order to keep my liver healthy, as well as to make sure that drinking remains a pleasurable indulgence and not a dependence. The years of looking forward to the weekend party ‘buzz’ are behind me and I now consume alcohol simply for its taste, as well as its ability to enhance and compliment the flavors in food. I’ve learned the hard way about lapses in judgment due to not keeping my consumption in check, and I’m not going there again.
So, time for an ES PSA. Here’s a trick question for you: Do you know what your LD50 is?
It’s a trick question because if you knew, you probably couldn’t tell me—half of you would be dead. LD50 stands for Lethal Dose for 50% and it refers to a person’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). It is based on someone who has a 0.45% BAC. It’s a known medical statistic that 50% of humans who experience a 0.45% BAC will die—it’s their lethal dose. Hence, LD50 = Lethal Dose for 50%. And it differs between men and women based on their sex as well as their weight. For instance, if you were consuming 1-ounce shots of liquor (40% alcohol) and you are a 120-pound woman, based on the BAC calculator you would reach 0.45% after 12 drinks. But a man weighing the same amount would need 14 drinks. Why? Two reasons actually. Most women in general have less body water than men of the same body weight and they metabolize alcohol differently. Women produce smaller quantities of the enzyme dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol in the stomach. This means that women will have higher concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstream after drinking the same amount as a man—about 30% more.
And contrary to popular belief, tolerance to alcohol doesn’t mean that a person can drink safely. Blood alcohol levels can’t be determined by someone’s outward appearance. The only thing that will lower your BAC is time. I’m sure that you all know the difference between consuming 4 drinks in an hour, and having the same 4 drinks over 3 hours. And if you’re the one providing the alcohol, it’s also your responsibility to monitor its affects on your friends. I make a lot of jokes about partying but I always make sure that I have room for unintentional overnight guests.
Over the next few months I’m going to be comparing and reviewing popular grain and cocktail alcohols, and then pairing them with specific complimentary foods. This research will require the consumption of many different brands and amounts of spirits and libations. And I may have to throw back a shot or two on occasion. Yeah, this research can be tedious but like I said, it’s something that I look forward to. And I can tell you right now that I’m never going to find out what my LD50 is.
I sincerely hope that you never do either.